May 22, 2015
This Sunday Easter comes to an end, not with a whimper so much as a bang. The Holy Spirit bursts into the life of the Apostles as never before and they fearlessly take the gospel to the ends of the earth. But we too have been filled with that same Holy Spirit and our task is exactly the same.
The readings and prayers of the feast are full of hope and confidence. We see the disciples transformed from craven cowards into men who know no fear. We see the Christian community growing and developing. We see the new born Church confident that it can continue the work of Christ.
Down through the ages that same Holy Spirit has transformed the Church. Just when her enemies were crowing over her, thinking that she was down and out new movements, new saints, new dynamism has overtaken the Church. That’s why the prayer to the Holy Spirit speaks of ‘renewing the face of the earth.’
The key fact is that we are not alone in our Christian belief. Far from it. The Holy Spirit has been given to us and so we are confident in the message that we proclaim. We are confident in doing the work Christ has given us to do. We are confident that we can make all things new.
May 15, 2015
Next weekend we celebrate the feast of the Ascension (transferred a few years ago from its traditional place this Thursday), the day when we commemorate the return of Christ to heaven. It’s very important that we realise that we are not celebrating a departure so much as a new way of being present. Jesus does not abandon us but rather goes on before, and at the same time remains with us always. Pope St. Leo the Great said: ‘At the Ascension the visible presence of Christ passed over into sacraments.’ He is still with us but now we discern him in sacraments and sacramental signs.
So we are celebrating the fact that Christ is still present. And we are celebrating that he has gone on before us. As the preface of the Mass puts it: ‘where he has gone we hope to follow’, or as St. Athanasius put it the one who took on our humanity now takes that humanity into the Godhead.
This feast then is not just about Jesus but about us too. We are not orphans left to wander this world alone – he is with us until the end of time. Similarly we are not without an idea of our final destination – we are called to share the intimate life of the Holy Trinity.