Ascension: “Just wait for Pentecost.”
Sunday Homily for May 4, 2008
Seventh Sunday of Easter (A)
By Fr. John Foley, S. J. of the Center for Liturgy
He had been telling the apostles about his crucifixion and death. The possibility of losing him terrified them. But he rose again.
This too was a shock, a big one. It was literally “unbelievable” for many of them, as we see when they simply refuse to accept it. Finally they begin to get over the shock of Christ’s resurrection. All of them, even Philip, can bury the sorrows of crucifixion and death and have some real joy for a change.
And then he tells them he is going away again. Actually, he does not exactly tell them, he lets them overhear his great prayer to the Father.* Another huge jolt.
I wonder what the apostles’ reaction must have been. If it were me I would feel whiplash. Insurmountable sorrow and loss followed by out-of-your-mind astonishment and joy, and finally, mission accomplished, goodbye forever. The air is out of the tires again.
How does Jesus console them? His great prayer in the Gospel is one very helpful way. He is praying not for the world but for the ones his Father gave him. His words are not ones of separation but just the opposite: now the disciples are always to be with him, and with the Father as well, even to the end of time.
Just like the disciples, you and I need a lot of time to try to understand this. Here is what Jesus is saying:
“The Father and I are one. When you see me you see the Father. And I will be one with you in the same way the father is with me. We all will be present to each other in the oneness of love.”
Then a funny thing happens. Instead of Philip breaking in with a clownish “couldn’t you just show us the Father and forget all this talk about unity and oneness,” he begins to listen. Jesus prays in remarkable words. “They have accepted your words, Abba, and they truly understand the fact that I came from you. They believe that you sent me.”
Jesus’ sensitivity could read their faces and their body stance and their formerly shallow souls. He could see the fruits of faith growing in them. He can see them in us.
What do they have faith in? In the power of God’s love even amidst departures and loss. In something—they could not identify it yet—something about Jesus that was so wide open to God that the two were completely at one. “Whoever sees me sees the Father” is a very deep description of such love.
How does this make sense to us? I don’t know. We need to have the Holy Spirit of God come to us tenderly and lift us into flight so we can see Christ’s landscape spread out.
In that flight maybe Jesus would say this to us: “I have shown you who God is and who I am. Now I go like all human beings back to the Father—your Father and my Father. But this Holy Spirit of God I have been describing? It is no fantasy. I am going to send it into you, and as often as you accept it you are one with us.
“Just wait for Pentecost.”
We are waiting. Let us drink a lot of (spiritual) coffee so that we will not sleep through it. It coul be that there is no “letdown” at all.
Maybe we are lifted up instead.