Homily for The Feast of Ascension
June 2, 2019 | Reflections from Abbess Hilda
What a beautifully human picture is contained with this feast of the Ascension. Who of us has not stood at a door or at that departure door at the international airport watching the departure of someone we love. Who of us hasn’t gone as close as we could to the door so as to see that person just one more time, who of has not hoped that they might just turn around and wave one last time. And if we are the one who is leaving haven’t we hoped that when we turned around the one who is seeing us off is still looking in our direction? It sets the scene for what we celebrate today.
One cannot but be struck by the fact that Jesus just did not disappear, he made sure he said goodbye properly. I remember hearing the story of an Australian missionary priest who has worked on one of the Pacific Islands for many years and had been with the people through the Japanese occupation. After the war his provincial felt that it was time for him to come home and know some physical care. The mere thought was heart breaking for him, he didn’t want to go but obedience was right through his DNA and go he would. On the morning he had decided to go, he got up early so no one would see him, went down to the beach and dragged out his boat, intending to get a friend on the main island to bring it back. Just as he was about to shove off a young boy came down to the beach and said, “what are you doing Father?’
“I’m just slipping away quietly lad, I can’t bear to say goodbye so I’ll just go”
The lad replied “You come back to the village and say goodbye properly or you can never take us with you and we can never keep you”
Thank God he heard the wisdom of this young boy and went back with him. He did not know then that he had cancer and he lived only a few short years after that. The wonderful thing is that when he met God, God saw all the people he had brought with him.
And here is Jesus saying “goodbye properly”. He just didn’t slip away and leave them without hope.
He couldn’t have been clearer as He covered all the bases:
Now this is where I am going so you know, this is what I am doing to ensure that you will be alright and I will still be with you to the end of the world and I am sending someone to help you and I’ll come back and when I do I’ll take you with me.
They for their part had only His promise to hang onto, backed up by their experience of Him over three years or so and by the fact that He had died and came back to them so there was a precedent. They had the memory of their own personal relationship with Him to call on for confirmation. The question was, would that be enough to see them through? In one sense it had to be, it was all they had.
So it is with us. Sometimes in our own life with God, it seems that He had ascended, gone away and there wasn’t any goodbye on God’s part or ours, it just sort of happened. We feel left to paddle away on our own. In that state we can expect that the trials and tribulations that come our way will always have the dominant voice. They because they are tangible will always win out over a hope that seems invisible and yet out personal hope in God’s promises is all we have.
If however we are people who are in a constant state of remembrance of the promises of God in our regard, of the times in our lives when God really has come through, when He has been there life can be different. When we are in a constant state of the remembrance of His word and daily keep it before our eyes, then it doesn’t matter what hard thing happens, that lived remembrance will be the dominant voice and we will know that God always has us with Him and we have kept Him with us, all will indeed be well… and He will return.
The Ascension is a vital part of our life with God and it might be worth while doing a check and asking yourself, when was the last time God seemed to go away? What happened? What did you do or not do? How did you connect again? Furthermore what does it mean for you to know that one day He will come again and take YOU with Him?
Abbess Hilda Scott osb