|Courtesy of c28.com|
I am fast learning, as a priest, that some of these festival days are hard things to preach at - and to not say the same thing a year later!
Anyway, brothers and sisters, it is the Feast of the Ascension, or as we like to call it in these parts, the Feast of the Ascension. Last year I considered how it must have been for the disciples with their new "Jesus shaped hole", and as I approached my own first incumbency, wondered how it might have been for twelve ordinary folk and their supporters taking on their first incumbency for the whole planet.
This year, I have been thinking about that utterance from the Cross - "it is finished", or "it is accomplished". They are significant words, much pondered and the essence of which is the fluff in so many prayer cushions! I think though, without the Ascension, this statement would have meant the darkest of things, and not the most salvific.
So much of faith and church life alludes to journeying. Each act of worship has a beginning, a middle and an end (even the most 'spontaneous' acts). Even our meetings are framed by a route of journey. Time passes, and one thing leads to the next thing - and if we forget that in the sparkling moments of our faith's story, we miss a great deal of the point - I believe.
Imagine Bethlehem and the birth. Great - a baby, new parents, gifts, heavenly creatures and the odd ungulate. Imagine the stable without the Christ's ministry and you simply have a Christmas Card scene, or at least a scene long ago forgotten because it would have fast become the account delivered by perceived beardy-weirdies. Jesus' ministry - full of miracle and teaching. Imagine that ministry without the Passion and death of Jesus. It would have been a notable ministry of an itinerant healer-preacher. No more no less. The crucifixion was a tragedy, a heinous crime - but without the Resurrection it would simply have been the slaying of a local religious hero, an early William Wallace moment. It may have even reached a history book, maybe. The Resurrection turned that murder into the atoning sacrifice, the crime into the most significant gift known to humankind.
Without the Ascension, the only thing accomplished would have been the darker intentions of jealous pharisees and weak Romans. No more, no less.
So, this is in many ways the final piece in the Jesus Jigsaw - the last piece that locks all the others into place. All that was done would have remained undone and incomplete had it not been for this super-natural and mysterious moment when the entire process set into place at the point of the Annuniciation was consummated and completed.
Annunciation to Ascension - the greatest journey in the world, and we make it every year!