Ever since Jesus’ return to the Father at the Ascension we are now enabled to encounter, love, and minister to Jesus in every human being, and this not as a fragment of our mystical imagination but as a concrete existential fact and an act of obedience to Jesus’ own commandments!
Jesus’ going to the Father, and our gladly letting him go to the One who begot him, is what enacts Jesus’ Real Presence in every member of humanity and makes him accessible to us at every turn. The mystery of Christ’s Ascension results in the harmonious merging of the two previously distinct commandments of love of God and love of neighbor, so that they, in practice, become but a single commandment. At the Ascension, Jesus of Nazareth becomes the universal, cosmic Christ. What an extraordinary explosion of love!
This explosion of love, this drowning of the whole cosmos in the tumultuous ocean of divine love by the re-creating action of the Divine Spirit, has very concrete consequences in our way of life…Inspired by our good Master’s teachings and example, should we not strive to practice habitually a hermeneutic of reconciliation, which seeks to find all possible common ground with the other, and never doubts the indestructible and always redeemable goodness of all God has created? To seek God’s dynamic grace as always at work in the souls of those we may be tempted to dislike or even to despise, naturally speaking: this is the concrete way to live out, day by day, encounter by encounter, the Paschal Mystery of Christ.
Consider the way in which St Paul earnestly pleaded with the contentious Christians of Corinth: God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. So, we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:18-21). The Reconciled must become the Reconcilers, or else they are living in flagrant hypocrisy. Only the assiduous practice of agápe-love can make us ambassadors for Christ. Only a reconciling love shifts our viewpoint radically so that it merges with God’s own. Only putting the good of others before our own good confers on our soul a new manner of vision like Christ’s, capable of seeing the invisible. This vision fills us, in turn, with divine life: In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live you also will live (Jn 14:19). By ‘the world’ Jesus here designates those who cannot see past their own noses.
We should strive to seek Jesus, then, where he truly is, where he has chosen to be, where he wants us to find him, that is: in his Word heard in the Liturgy, lectio, and silent prayer; in the Eucharist and in the community that celebrates it; and not least in the men, women, and children of this world, with each of whom Jesus has intimately identified himself. If we learn to find Christ in these privileged places of his presence, then we will also know how to find him authentically in the silence and solitude of our hearts. The Jesus of the monk’s heart, of any Christian’s heart, will never be a private, comfortable Jesus bringing personal consolation to a select few. The Jesus of the Christian heart is total, cosmic Christ, the risen Lord of all, Head of his Body the Church, and of all suffering humanity.
How does Jesus—who is Truth and Love and Life incarnate—give himself to us? Where is he to be found without fail? He is now to be found precisely where he chose to take up mystical residence at the Ascension: namely, in the Word and Eucharist, we receive and in the members of his humanity, in whom he offers himself to our selfless love. Of the offered bread and wine on the altar, the King of glory astoundingly declares: This is my Body, this is my Blood. And of all our brothers and sisters he declares no less astoundingly: Truly I say to you, whatever you did to one of the least of these, you did to me (Mt 25:45).
This is what the universal circulation of God’s love has accomplished through the Risen Jesus: His Body in the Eucharist, inseparable from his Body in humankind; ourselves invited to revere and serve both Real Presences and thus attain the indestructible bliss of God himself. These palpable Presences of Jesus contain the whole Easter Mystery and powerfully fuel our whole life of faith. Jesus’ manner of presence to us after the Resurrection has forever changed the nature of our relationship with God and with one another. May its irresistible force transform us and make us alive with God’s embodied glory!
Photograph by Brother Brian. Excerpts from a homily by Father Simeon.