Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; Mt 28:16-20
We have been living in Eastertide, yes, in the midst of Covid-19. The forty days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, he walked the earth, accompanying and teaching, confirming, strengthening his followers by his glorified presence. Hence the question: “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” Think of the Emmaus story; the resurrected Christ was walking beside two dejected, discouraged followers. They did not recognize him or sense his presence at first, not until he broke the bread, “How our hearts were burning,” they later thought, upon reflection. In these days, since Lent and now through Eastertide, we have all experienced confusion and frustration like these two. Upon reflection, have we not also sensed Christ’s presence? Your keen desire for the Eucharist is an Easter experience, the presence that led you to follow our live-streamed masses, to come to church after live-streamed masses for a Eucharistic blessing with the monstrance, and finally your desire to be here today. Was there not within you an excitement to gather together again with your St. Andrew community today? And yes, to receive Holy Communion once again? How our hearts were burning to do this! That’s an experience of the Spirit. Perhaps these days have brought you to an elemental sense of what it is to be with Christ, to long for him. Desire for Holy Communion is a sign of his presence within you. You don’t die from not going to the mall. You can die without the Eucharist, without the Spirit.
The Ascension is about the interpenetration of Christ’s Spirit within our world of matter – not up on the sky, but here and now. We have learned that we are more than the virus, more than our matter. The Spirit of God dwells in our bodies. Pope Francis says: “The Ascension …tells us that he is alive in our midst in a new way. He is no longer in a specific place in the world as he was before the Ascension. He is now … present in every space and time, close to each one of us…we are never alone.” We can’t come back to our former ways – unchanged. We must see our lives ever more as one foot in this world and one foot in heaven. What is heaven? It is Christ himself.
Pope-emeritus Benedict speaks of Ascension as: “Jesus himself what we call heaven.” When we receive Holy Communion, we receive Jesus. Jesus is heaven. Heaven is Jesus. It is a state of being with Him. We can live without the mall; we cannot without Him.
Brothers and sisters, today, for the first time since March 14 or 15, Christ will come to you in Holy Communion once again. Earth unites with heaven – heaven on earth. On earth as it is in heaven. Interpenetration of heaven and earth.
In this week between Ascension and Pentecost, we prepare for the Holy Spirit – all of us – but especially Cody, our catechumen, who we will baptize, and Caitlin and Sarah, our candidates, all three of whom we will confirm and receive into the Church next Sunday, Pentecost. We continue today in a renewed way to be members of our Church together. We have Christ’s power and presence within us. We rejoice and are glad. And we announce Him in the world, right here in Mercer and Boyle Counties.