In years gone past this is the day that the Ascension was celebrated. Now it has been moved to the 7th Sunday after Easter. Just one point about the Ascension which I truly love: When the angel asked Mary to be the Mother of God, Jesus became man. At the Ascension, Jesus brought a human body, albeit a glorified human body, right into the midlle of the Trinity. That is our destiny!!
Jesus tells the disciples he is leaving them for a short time and that he will return. This baffles his listeners. They do not understand, and when he tells them he is going to the Father they become more confused. He predicts that the world shall be glad that he is gone. This is something we don't fully understand, those of us who make some feeble attempt to follow Jesus, the level of hatred that people of the world have towards Jesus. Secularist society and those of an atheist bent, when you listen to what they are really saying, betray a deep hatred of Jesus and all that he stands for. The idea of respecting his authority, of taking cogniscance of his teaching is anathema to them. The most horrible example of this is abortion. In the face of all that jesus teaches about the dignity of life there are still people who hold for the right to choose to abort. The culture of death of which John Paul II spoke is one example of how much the world ahtes Jesus. We tend to underestimate this. But Jesus always returns. He never goes that far away. There is something about him that the world cannot ignore. We may shut him out but he always finds a way in. Jesus is Lord. No matter where we go there is no hiding place from his glare, and his glare, as Peter found out, is pure love that convicts.
In our Gospel today, our Lord promises joy to his disciples — it will be theirs when he is with them again. “Jesus said to his disciples, In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” Our Lord is clearly referring to his Passion, Death and Resurrection which is about to descend upon him. Very soon, they will not see him and then they will see him. They could not understand this, and this incomprehension harmonizes with what we read elsewhere in the Gospels. When, during his public ministry, our Lord referred to his having to suffer and die in order to enter his glory, we read that the disciples could not understand him. Despite his repeated warnings, it just did not sink in. Simon Peter on one occasion presumed to take our Lord aside and remonstrate with him about all this kind of talk. It was ridiculous, he thought. His intervention drew a powerful and public rebuke from our Lord. Still, they could not catch on — and here at the Last Supper, when the whole terrible course was about to be set in train, they still could not envisage what our Lord was trying to convey. So our Lord emphasises again what he has just said: they will soon be engulfed in grief for he will be gone, while “the world” will rejoice at his departure. Importantly, though — and this is the keynote of the passage — “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy”(John 16: 16-20). Christ is promising a coming joy. Their grief will turn to joy because he will be back with them. That is the point to be kept in mind all through life, that joy is ours because Jesus Christ is with us. If joy comes to a couple who are being married, it is because they belong to one another till death. Their love, one for the other, is the cause of their joy. This is a sign, even in God’s own plan for man, of the love which he has for us, a love that is undying and always faithful. The truest source of human joy is the knowledge of the love of God for us, and this is revealed, embodied, made present and given to us in the person of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen from the dead. Whatever be our sorrows, if we are truly planted and grounded in the knowledge of the love of Jesus Christ, nothing will take away our joy to the very end. Come rack, come rope, joy will be ours, for nothing can separate us from the love of God which is given us in Christ Jesus (Rom 8:39).
At the Last Supper in his prayer to his heavenly Father, our Lord says that eternal life is this, knowing you, Father, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. This means knowing the love of the Father and of the Son, a love personified and given in the Person of the Holy Spirit. Love is the foundation of joy, and God means us to possess joy amid our broken world, joy to the very end amid the suffering that is inevitable because of the world’s sin. St Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say, rejoice! he says (Philippians 4:4). Well then, let this joy fill our lives!