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May 8, 2016

“On the Feast of Ascension a group of male applicants had just arrived in heaven.  St. Peter looked them over and ordered, “All men who were henpecked on earth, please step to the left; all those who were bosses in their own homes, step to the right.”

The line quickly formed on the left.  Only one man stepped to the right.  St. Peter looked at the frail little man standing by himself and inquired, “What makes you think you belong to that side?”

Without hesitation, the meek little man explained, “Because this is where my wife told me to stand.”

 Happy Mother’s Day!

Today we celebrate the feast of our Lord's Ascension.  Some of us would think of the happy ending of Jesus' story.  Jesus, Son of God, born in poverty, died in suffering and pain, is now taken up into the glory of God.  But for me, the feast of Ascension is not the end of a story, rather it is a new story, a new form of Jesus' presence among us.

How many of you had met St. Pope John Paul, or Blessed Mother Teresa, or Tim Cooks personally?  Just a few of us right?  With all our modern transportation and still we hardly meet a famous person.  I think even if Jesus remained on earth and did not ascend into heaven, not many of us could see him or hear him personally.  That is one of the reasons for his ascension.  He remains with us in a new form.

When he was on earth, the historical Jesus could be present to those who could see him with their physical eyes or hear him with their physical ears or touch him with their physical bodies.  So, for most people in the world, Jesus, as a historical person on earth was not present at all.

The story of ascension, then, is the story of Jesus moving from being an objective matter of history to being taken out of sight by a cloud.  A cloud is a biblical symbol of the presence of God who can be seen by faith as the Israeli people in the desert followed God's presence in a cloud.  So the ascension is the story not about Jesus being taken away from us, but Jesus being given to us in a different form for all times and for all places as a matter of faith.

As a matter of history, Jesus was present with a few people in the first century.  But as a matter of faith, Jesus is present with each of us all the time and in every place.  As a person of history, a few people saw him.  A few people heard Jesus tell them that he did not condemn them but rather forgive them.  As a matter of faith, all of us can at any time confess to Jesus our burden of guilt.  We can see Jesus listening to us with understanding love.  We can hear him say: "I will be with you to help you do better in the future.  Don't give up.  I will help you be a new person."

As a historical person, Jesus told a few people not to be afraid because he would be with them to guide and to bring them into joy.  As a person of faith, Jesus speaks such words to us whenever we are afraid.  When we are afraid of what might happen to us, the Jesus of faith speaks loudly: "I understand your fear.  It's a scary world but don't be afraid.  You belong to me, I see you through whatever happens.  I take you into a new life of joy."

The ascension, then, is not the story of Jesus going away.  Quite opposite!  The ascension is the story of Jesus being present and being seen and heard by each of us as a matter of faith at any time, in any place especially in the Eucharist.

Be present to us Lord.  Help us to feel your presence among us.  Make us a witness to you as we live our Christian life here on earth and help us to follow your path so that one day we will be seated with you and the Holy Spirit at the right hand of God, the Father.