What The Ascension Can Teach Us When We Feel Abandoned By Christ

by Feasts and Solemnities, May

Ascension seems the silliest solemnity.

Jesus spent thirty years preparing for His mission, three years preaching His mission, three days suffering, dying, rising to complete His mission, and many days thereafter appearing to His apostles so that they would believe in His mission. However, just when His mission is ready to go public like the launch of the biggest business in history, Jesus abandons it.

Up, up and away He goes.

It’s like a game of “Now you see me, now you don’t”. Not unlike our experience in prayer. Sometimes God seems close, but then “poof” the feeling is gone. Other times we need God to be close, yet feel abandoned. Is God toying with us?

No, we’re not part of a jest; we’re part of the blessed. God may have a sense of humor, but the cross proves He’s deadly serious about His faithful love for us. God’s love is not capricious like the clouds, but permanent like the sun. Just as sometimes we’re in darkness, but not because the sun has moved, rather because we have, so too God’s love is faithful; we’re the ones who are fickle.

 We are just as fickle as the Apostles, who, when push came to shove, were all pushing and shoving to see who could run away from Calvary first. But when we shove Christ away, its push comes to love. God’s love is faithful even when we’re fickle.

So the Ascension isn’t about Christ abandoning us, but rather about Christ empowering us.

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” God gave us His Spirit because God’s love is empowering, not enslaving. It is the power of the Spirit that helps us believe that God doesn’t abandon us.

Rather God became one with us in Christ to prove that God is as faithful to us as our own flesh. Empowered by that Spirit, Christ promises to heal our wounds even as we push Him away and then claim He’s not there. We blame God for abandoning us. Yet God’s love never abandons us, but rather always offers to empower us.

God’s love is empowering, not enslaving because God doesn’t want slaves, but children. Since God wants us to exercise and thereby experience the power of the children of God, God gives us His Spirit to empower our free response to God’s free gift of love.

Slaves are manipulated by power; brats manipulate others with their power; but the children experience the free gift of the Spirit’s power precisely by exercising their God given freedom to love as God loves. And because God’s love is neither manipulating nor manipulated, consequently while God won’t do anything for us without us, with us God will do all things for us.

God’s love is both faithful and freeing.

However, while freedom empowers choice it also requires choosing. God’s love is faithful, but also fateful: God’s love empowers, but also requires our free choice.
Will we choose to cooperate with God and exercise our freedom to push through capricious temptations or will we choose to abuse our freedom and push against the immovable love of God?
God’s not going up, up, and away, rather at the consecration God chooses again to come down, down, down and summon us along His way. God both empowers yet also requires our free but fateful answer of either yea or nay.
Fr. Ken Davis O.F.M Conv.

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