“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

Today we celebrate the fortieth day after the resurrection, the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord. As you just saw, the symbols of the resurrection, the statue of the resurrected Christ, the victorious cross of our High priest, and the Pascal Candle have been removed from the altar. This symbolizes what the apostles factually encountered, they could no longer see Jesus in human form.

Of course, we see Jesus, in the sacrament of the altar. We see Him in each other and in all people who are formed in God’s image. Jesus remains with us, body, blood, soul and divinity under the appearances of bread and wine, and in His word, and in the forgiveness of sin.

Today, let us remember that Jesus’ leaving was actually a charging. He charged us with seven unique things. Let’s review those:

The first charge He left is: working His UNFINISHED TASK.

Jesus said in John 19:30, “…it is finished…” He was saying that the atonement for sin was finished. We might suspect from that that we can lay back. The job is done, nothing more to see, say, or do. But, it is not that simple, for Jesus is charging us with a to-do.

In Luke 19:10 we read “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” As long as there is one person who has not heard the message, the task is not finished. He left that task to be finished by us. All must hear, all must be given the opportunity to say yes. All must be given the chance to be satisfied, with nothing in their being crying out – “unfinished.” We are charged with making Him known.

The second charge He left is: have faith in a MESSAGE THAT CANNOT BE CHALLENGED.

In Acts 1:3 we read that Jesus showed himself alive … by many infallible proofs, being seen and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God”

Of course people have been challenging His message, His proofs, His witnesses since before His passion and death, much less after His resurrection and Ascension. Being challenged is not the problem. It is our willingness to let the challenge break our trust.

We cannot let challenges get to us. We are charged to believe by faith and by the testimony of His witnesses and to act on that.

The third charge He left us is: living in UNQUESTIONABLE LOVE.

No one can question the love exhibited by the Son of God. He gave His life that you and I might live forever, freed from the punishment due for our sins. He left His home in heaven and came to a world of sinners who rejected Him and nailed Him on a cross and then He even forgave those who killed Him. That is unquestionable love. 

In John 15:13 we read: Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. St. Paul would go on to explain in Romans 5:7-8: For rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God proves His love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. His charge is to live His example of love. His very way of loving is to be our way of loving.

The fourth charge Jesus left us is: reliance on His UNMISTAKABLE PLAN.

“…and you shall be witnesses…to the uttermost part of the earth.”

A witness is sworn to tell the truth of what they saw or experienced. Sometimes we get the plan wrong. It is an unmistakable plan. We are to be witnesses–not super salespeople, attempting to persuade the person with our ability. But by letting Christ in us work. Let us let Him use us with our neighbors, co-workers, friends, our city, state, nation and in the world. Let us follow the call within us. When we hear our conscience say – I should say something, let us do it. Trust His plan will work.

The fifth charge Jesus left us is: giving UNSHAKABLE TESTIMONY.

In Acts 1:10 we hear of the apostles looking “steadfastly toward heaven.”

We must do the same. To be steadfast means to be resolute, firm, and unwavering in our testimony. Will we get challenged at times, maybe be laughed at, thought of as silly? Certainly!. It really isn’t that bad if we remain humble enough to allow God to shine through those challenges. St. Peter says: “Do not fear their threats; do not be frightened. But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” God is in control, let us be steadfast in realizing that and give witness to our hope by our solid testimony.

The sixth charge Jesus left us is: reliance on the power of an UNSTOPPABLE FORCE.

In ten days we celebrate Pentecost, the coming of the unstoppable Spirit. A Spirit of power, wisdom, strength, and understanding. If we believe, if we have been endued with that power, we, like the apostles and disciples must be bold in our proclamation. Nothing and no one should stop us from  “Going into all the world.” We are a family with unstoppable force. When we wake up and realize that we are an unstoppable force and we then engage willingly in going out on the limb a little farther, then we will begin to see that the power of His unstoppable force in us. We will produce the same fruit the apostles, disciples, and saints have produced.

The seventh charge He left us is: reliance on His UNFAILING PROMISE.

2,000 years ago Jesus stood on a mountain overlooking Jerusalem and said to His disciples: Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions … I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.

The angel told the apostles: Men of Galilee, why stand here gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall come in like manner.”

We know the battle gets tough, but do not be discouraged, one day soon that trumpet is going to blow. That is an unfailing promise. I am looking for Him to come now, today, Maranatha Lord Jesus, but I also know there is much more for us to do. Until He comes, we are those charged to do His work!

Look!
Jesus!

John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.”

I saw a cute little poster. Kermit the Frog is drinking tea and reflecting: ‘You slow down when you see the police but you don’t stop sinning even though God is watching.’ It makes me think of exactly how scared I was as a kid when I heard that God saw and knew everything.

Of course, now I know better. Certainly, God is all knowing, He sees everything – but He sees us through a kind of rose colored glasses – He sees us through the sacrifice of His Son Jesus who gave Himself for us. If I have placed my faith in Him, all my sins have been washed away and I need no longer fear. As the hymn proclaims: ‘Grace, my fears relieved. The hour I first believed.’

The one error we fall into as people freed by grace is to maintain a two-plane view of our relationship with God. He is ‘up there.’ We are ‘down here.’ We do stuff here; He watches from there.

Having a two-plane view of our relationship with God sets Him apart from us. As Kermit surmises in the poster, we see the police and slow down. We fail to see God’s near presence in our lives, our workplaces, and our community because we do not believe He is with us, near us.

The changes we are called to make begin with our breaking down separateness from God.

Indeed, Jesus came into the world to demonstrate God’s desire to be with us. He did not leave us alone and apart, but sent His Holy Spirit to live with us, advise us, and to fill our lives with grace as we encounter Him in sacrament and community. We are called to break free of our two-plane view and live closely with God – as St. John tells us, walking with Him ‘in the Spirit and in truth.

The next step moves us from concept and thought. We must decide how we will see God – Is He apart or near? This is where the rubber-hits-the-road. If God is on another plane and apart from us, we may choose to live just as we live, disconnected from Him, not seeing Him. But if He is with us, part of every aspect of our lives, not just watching, but involved here and now, then we must take John the Baptist’s observation seriously. John pointed to Jesus saying ‘Behold!’

If we believe that He is with us, we are called to point to Him just as John did. We are called to bring clarity where there is doubt and to make Him completely real – on the same plane – as those we encounter. That happens when people recognize Jesus in their midst when they recognize His very real presence. That happens when they see the face of Jesus in our faces and feel His touch in our work – when the light goes on and they say, ‘Look! Jesus!’