Ascension - Homily 3

Homily 3 - 2015

The Ascension of Jesus was not an early primitive version of the launch of an astronaut into space. St Luke was not describing a literal event but imaginatively introducing us to mystery. He drew on an image used by Isaiah when he described his vocation to his prophetic ministry. Isaiah spoke of a dream/vision of God in the Jerusalem temple – lifted up, hidden in a cloud of incense-smoke, accompanied by angels. That is basically what we have here: a vision of Jesus, his humanity undergoing a process of divinisation, placed at the right hand of God. That divinisation, Luke insisted, did not separate him from his disciples. He would be back in the same way as the disciples saw him going – no longer the historical figure they knew, not visible, but real and accessible not just to that small group of followers of that time and that place, but to anyone anywhere. Something had happened to the human Jesus. 

The human nature of the one who was already Son of God – that limited human nature with its brain and memory and intelligence, no different essentially from ours – was changed, transformed, somehow divinised by the power of God. In today’s Second Reading we heard "that same power is now at work in us", transforming our humanity into his. We are his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation. What might it mean for us to be in the process of becoming divinised with Christ? 

What is God? God is love. That is it. No more; no less. To be divinised is to be transformed into love. We are becoming transformed into love. Experience shows it to be a slow process, one that we can resist. But to the extent that we permit, it will happen inexorably – transformed by Love into love. That dynamic is gently but powerfully straining now within us. And I would think that most of us, if we take the time to notice carefully, will be aware of it quietly changing us across the years.

We shall need it.  Over the following three or four weeks, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will be working in Ballarat, largely listening to the harrowing stories of victims and survivors. The revelations will be awful, simply awful. Among other feelings, it will probably arouse deep and spontaneous hostility within us – at the Church authorities whose responses were seen to so mistaken and inadequate, perhaps at the media for relentlessly parading the sad story everywhere, or at the priests, brothers and nuns who were cruelly guilty of the abuse, or [heaven forbid!] even at the victims for telling their stories.

There will be others who have been abused and who, for whatever reasons, have chosen not to tell their stories. They may find themselves reliving their past experiences, and suffering their pain all over again.

There is nothing wrong with feeling angry. Anger provides the indispensable energy needed to work determinedly for change. Persistent hostility is something else. Not dealt with, it can become poison, for individuals and for communities.

And God? Where will God be during these coming weeks? God is not blind. God sees the incredible harm that we humans do to each other and to ourselves. God has judged the evildoers in our world – and God’s judgment is “Guilty”. But the energy of the God who is love is never a destructive energy. God is determined to save the world – the guilty world. That is why he sent his Son. How did Jesus respond to the world’s evil? How shall we respond to the world’s evil as we are confronted by one awful expression of it that happened in our world, in our time, by ones among us whom we trusted?

The First Reading today had Jesus say, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth.” As disciples being transformed by Love into love, how shall we each witness to Christ? By this time next month, shall we have become more compassionate, more respectful and supportive of each other, better listeners?