He goes to prepare a place

By | May 20, 2009

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Fr. Mark Vander Steeg

Why does it matter that Jesus ascended or was “taken up” to the Father? The answer is somewhat captured in Jesus’ own words, “I have gone to prepare a place for you, and I will come back again to take you to myself, so that where I am, you also may be” (John 14).

The Ascension communicates that the risen Jesus, who is God the Son, lived in all his humanity, has now taken his risen humanity into the communion of the Trinitarian life of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is an incredible revelation since we, in our humanity, have been joined to that risen body of Christ through baptism.

Thus if we stay united to Christ in our life, he has the power, authority and means to bring us through death into this eternal Trinitarian life.

God obviously desires us to reach the end for which he has made us, for in Christ Jesus, God himself has removed all the obstacles. The normal means of being mystically joined to Christ is through the gift of baptism as the risen Jesus says in the Gospel, “Those who believe and are baptized will be saved.”

Christ’s words, in the first reading, assure us that his baptism is not merely symbolic, like that of John the Baptist, but gives the Holy Spirit as he once foretold (John 3). This Holy Spirit makes possible a new way of life for those who choose to let it be lived in them. This new way can be difficult, considering we are up against very dark forces that seek to mislead and destroy the “Lover of God,” which is the translation of “Theophilus.”

St. Paul knew this life challenge well and in his letter he encourages the young Christians to be courageous and know that the risen Jesus is now at the most powerful place imaginable, “the right hand of the Father,” and lives forever to aid them with “his power for us who believe.” He knows that Christ is “above every principality, authority, power and dominion, and every name that is not only in this age but also in the one to come.” They need not fear.

Paul no doubt knew from his own life experience the depths of this reservoir of grace to overcome anything, even his own resistance. His compliance with God yielded a “mature manhood,” whose marks were “all humility and gentleness, patience, a bearing with one another through love, a striving for the unity of the Spirit” and a submission “to one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Paul knew he did not make the faith, but rather had received it. He lived as its servant “for the work of ministry” and “for building up the body of Christ.” He acknowledged its God appointed leadership and lived united to it. Our “call” is the same.

Questions for Reflection

1. Where do I still need to let God grow my maturity in Christ?

2. Do I trust and call upon the power and authority of Jesus to drive out evil and sin?

3. Do I witness to the faith in the full unity of Spirit?

 

Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.

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