Seventh Sunday of Easter
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, vast, unmeasured, boundless,
free, rolling as a mighty ocean in its fullness over me.
Underneath me, all around me, is the current of Thy love;
leading onward, leading homeward to my glorious rest above.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth, changeth never, nevermore!
How He watcheth o’er His loved ones, died to call them all His own;
how for them He intercedeth, watcheth o’er them from the throne.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, love of ev’ry love the best; ‘
tis an ocean vast of blessing, ’tis a haven sweet of rest.
O the deep, deep love of Jesus, ’tis heav’n of heav’ns to me;
and it lifts me up to glory, for it lifts me up to Thee.
Meditation of the Ascension of Jesus: Absence & Presence
By the Rev. Ron Rolheiser
The Ascension throws some important light on the mystery of love and intimacy. It is an event inside of the life of Jesus and the early church, a Christian feast day, a theology and a spirituality- all woven into one bundle of mystery that we seldom try to sort out.
Among other things, the mystery of how we touch each others’ lives is strangely paradoxical. The wondrous life-giving power of arriving, touching another’s life, speaking words that nurture, doing actions that build up, and giving life for another, depends greatly upon eventually leaving, being silent, absorbing rather than actively doing, and giving our goodbye and death just as we once gave our presence and our life. Presence depends too upon absence and there’s a blessing we can only give when we go away.
That’s why Jesus, when bidding farewell to his friends before his ascension, spoke these words: “It’s better for you that I go away.” “You will be sad now, but your sadness will turn to joy.” “Don’t cling to me, go instead to Galilee and I will meet you there.” How might we understand these words? How is it better that someone we love goes away? How can the sadness of a goodbye and a painful leaving, turn to joy?
This is hard to explain, though we experience it daily. When I was 22, in the space of four months, my father and mother died, both still young. For my siblings and me, the pain of their deaths was searing. Initially, what we felt was pain, severance, coldness, helplessness, a new vulnerability, the loss of a vital life-connection, and, the brutality and finality of something for which there is no preparation. There’s nothing warm, initially, in any loss, death, or painful goodbye. Time is a great healer. For me it took several years not to feel a coldness any more. My parents’ deaths eventually were no longer painful. Instead, their absence turned into a warm presence, the heaviness gave way to a lightness of soul inside me, their incapacity to speak to me now turned into a surprising new way of having their steady, constant word in my life. The blessing that they were never able to fully give me while they were alive began to seep ever more deeply into the very core of my person. The same was true for my siblings. Our sadness turned to joy and we began to find our parents again, in a deeper way, in Galilee, namely, in those places where their spirits had flourished while they were alive. They had ascended and we were the better for it.
We often have this kind of experience in less dramatic ways. Parents experience this, often excruciatingly, when a child grows up, grows away, and eventually leaves to start life on his or her own. A real death takes place here. An ascension has to happen, an old way of relating has to die, painful as it may be. Yet, it’s better that our children go away. The same is true everywhere in life. When we visit someone, our leaving is as important as our arrival; it is part of the gift of our visit. Our presence partly depends upon our absence.
The ascension deepens intimacy by giving us precisely a new presence, a deeper, richer one, which can only come about if our former way of being present is taken away. Perhaps we understand this best in the experience we have when our children grow up and leave home. It’s painful to see them grow away from us, painful to say that particular goodbye, painful to see them “ascend.”
But, if their words could say what their hearts intuit, they would say what Jesus said before his ascension: “It’s better for you that I go away. There will be sadness now, but that sadness will turn to joy when, one day soon, you will have standing before you a wonderful adult son or daughter who is now in a position to give you the much deeper gift of his or her adulthood.”
Call to worship
In today’s Gospel, Jesus prays for his friends and followers. He asks God to watch over and guide them and he sends them out to preach and serve. He consecrates them to be holy and to share his joy. His prayer for them is also his prayer for us.
- To the point: In today’s gospel Jesus prays that his Father consecrate the disciples (and us) to be his continuing presence in the world. We cannot avoid the tension that this consecration engenders: we will be at odds with the world but one with each other; we will be hated by the world but share in the joy of Christ; we will be confronted by the evil one but be protected from evil. In the midst of this tension, we are assured of Jesus’ prayer and protection.
- Connecting the Gospel (John 17: 11-19) to the second reading: The tension of living in the world while not belonging to the world would paralyze us if we were not given God’s Spirit who, through our struggle with the tension, brings to perfection God’s love in us.
- Connecting the Gospel to experience: We wish that committing ourselves to Christ would eliminate tension in our lives. It doesn’t! If anything, it heightens the tension.
(Ascension: Mark 16:15-20) (7 Easter B: John 17:11-19)
Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world
and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”
It was 40 days before he thought he could leave them.
He wasn’t ready and neither were they.
Jesus, put your Gospel in our hearts too,
as you put it in theirs; and also within our minds and souls.
Let us take your Word to every living creature,
in daylight and in the dark of night,
from housetops, pulpits and within every town.
Consecrate us in your truth;
as you are one in love with the Father
and the Spirit, make us one in your love.
(Ascension- Acts 1:1-11) (7 Easter B- Acts, 1:15-17, 20, 20-26)
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”
Lord, let your Spirit help us to choose to find you today.
In refugees, in the trafficked, in those hungry or in prison.
Also in stars, roses; and in friends, wherever we may find them.
Let us be your watchers and your holy ones.
(Ascension: Ephesians 1:17-23 or 4:1-13) (7 Easter B: 1 John 4: 11-16)
Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.
Dear Lord, open the eyes of our hearts.
Let our small eyes catch sight of not just of the “feel good” kind of love,
but the lay-down-your life-give-up-everything kind.
Bring us into that one Body, one Spirit,
the one God and Father of all.
And please bring us too, over all, through all
and within all to you. Bind us together.
Let us love each other well.
Copyright © 2021, Anne M. Osdieck
Music for reflection