Two weeks ago, a certain leader of a religious sect in America predicted that the world would end at 6 o’clock, on the 21st of May 2011. I was supposed to be in the parish by then to serve as deacon over the weekend. I sent my apology that I couldn’t make it not because I believe that the world would end really, [which only God knows], but because I have to spend more time in writing my 25,000 word synthesis. I wanted to finish it before the end of the world, rather before my ascension, rather before my ordination. Of course the end didn’t happen. The next day, I read a comic strip about the failed prediction, saying to Harold Camping, “Your prediction is disgusting minister. It failed, again, the second time.” The minister then answered, “Yes, it didn’t happen because you didn’t have faith.”
Friends, there are things and events in our lives that we just couldn’t take in. Some are too good to be true. Some are too bad to be true. We just doubt it. We would just lose faith in them.
This same attitude lingers among the disciples of Jesus in today’s reading for the feast of the Ascension. Jesus has organized a final meeting with his disciples on the mountain, prior to his departure to heaven. So they went. But when they saw Jesus there, some of them worshipped him. But some hesitated, some doubted. The gospel didn’t mention the reason, but we can guess. They might ask Jesus, “Are you for real?” Are you sure, this is you? Or am I just seeing things?
I can imagine the human instinct of Jesus saying to them. “What more do you need to believe in me and in my words? I walked with you. I ate with you. I preached the message of the kingdom with you and to you. You saw me healing the sick people. You saw eating with sinners. You were there when I was arrested. I was tortured and hanged on the cross. You were not there at the foot of the cross though, you all abandoned me, except my mum and John. I was risen from the dead. I have showed my wounds to you. I broke the bread with you. And you still doubt in me?
But no. Jesus didn’t reprimand them with these words. In fact, he trusted them still. Yes, this is one of the messages of ascension- Jesus trusting his disciples, and to us now. He trusted us to continue his mission in the world, to go and make disciples of all nations, to baptize them in the name of the Trinity, in other words, in the name of the Communion of LOVE, and to obey all that he asks them to do: to love God and to love our neighbours. Yes, he trusted us even if we doubt him.
As human as we are, we know, how risky it is to ask someone to do things for us especially those who cast doubt in us, those who don’t believe in us quite fully. We know how challenging it is to trust someone whom we know, does not trust us in return.
But today, Jesus just made it possible. TO confirm this, he left them, looking up to heaven, as he was covered by the clouds and was taken up to heaven….according to our First Reading today. This means, Jesus has completely trusted us, his Church to continue his saving mission. However, as he promised, he would not leave us orphans. And we’ll celebrate the fulfilment of this promise next Sunday, the Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus comes and dwells in us, to accompany us everywhere, as we preach the Good News that God loves us unconditionally, as he revealed in Jesus, to the end to the world. By the Spirit of Jesus, he becomes present to each one of us, wherever we go, whoever we are, and whatever we do.
The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council taught that Jesus is present in the Liturgy in four visible respects: in the Assembly [the body], in the Minister [the visible head], in the Word of God proclaimed, and in the Eucharistic Species of bread and wine- which would become a real body and blood of Jesus in the Consecration. DO we really believe that the species we receive in the Holy Communion is the REAL body and Blood of Jesus? That he is really present there?
When I was Sydney for the World Youth day in 2008, I went to this conference about the Eucharistic Miracles. The main speakers were the priest-witness of the miracle himself and the doctor [a former unbeliever, but converted later] who examined the element. The story was that this priest was giving communion one day in the Church. A lady came extended her hand, but even before the priest could place the host in her hand, she moved aside immediately. So the Host fell on the ground. Since it caught up dirt immediately, the priest took it and placed it on a glass of water, to dissolve it, for the next week or so. He put it in the tabernacle. After a week, he came to check it, but he noticed that something reddish appeared around the host. With no element of wonderment, he just left it there, thinking that it might just be part of the process of dissolving. But the following week, he checked it again, and he found out that the host, has now become a real flesh with blood on it. He went to see doctor an expert of some kind related to human body. The priest carefully chose a doctor who don’t believe in God at all and more so with this miracle, without telling the latter where was the specimen taken from, to avoid prejudice. The result of the examination was remarkable. First, the doctor found out that the blood is a real human blood, with all the elements on it, but he couldn’t establish the DNA. Second, the flesh was a muscle from the innermost part of the human heart. Third, the muscle showed that the body is a victim of a severe torture, with a prick of a thorn, from a plant that only existed long time ago inPalestine. The fourth and the most remarkable, the doctor said, that when the sample was taken from the body, the body was still alive. Hearing these, the priest was dumbfounded. The doctor asked him, where is the sample taken from. When the priest told him, it was from Sacred Host, the doctor was caught by surprised. That experience then paved the way to his conversion. And he now travels all over the world with this priest to give testimony about the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
SO this feast of the Ascension reminds us of two things: To confirm our faith in Jesus, as our Lord, the Master of all Creation, our friend, our brother, who has now in heaven to prepare our room there; and to remind us that Jesus is really present in us and with us all the time, but we have to continue proclaiming his love to all people. Through this faith in him, everything will fall into place, as Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and ascension into heaven, has revealed in us.