Ascension of the Lord (2016)
By Fr. Leroy Clementich, CSC
For a long time I have been convinced that home, the place where were born, the place where we lived during our early years, casts some kind of indelible mark on our consciences, indeed on our very character. It is the place where we were formed in body, mind and spirit. True, we may not remember much of that early experience in later life but in some mysterious way it assured us that we were safe there, the safety of parents was close by; we learned our first lessons in that place; even discipline was accepted, perhaps grudgingly! Home then, in the words of a now forgotten author, is the place where, if you go there, they have to take you in. True enough, in later life we may well forget what home was like, but, for sure, if we think about it, we will know that this is the place where life began to grow in us.
In my own experience today, I often wish that I could go back to the place where I spent the first 10 years of my life and simply sit there to drink in the geography of the place, recall the memories, even the sadness’s that vaguely come back to mind. Unfortunately, in my situation today, such a return is not possible. None-the-less, even after many years of separation from the “home place,” the experience of childhood, there is still a strong and vivid desire within me to return. I will never give up reflecting on what it was like, back then.
In the gospels we find many references to Jesus returning to the place where he grew up: not Bethlehem, but Nazareth. It was the village where people still remembered him from an earlier time. He entered their local synagogue on a Sabbath and preached from the book of the Prophet Isaiah. Indeed, he even incurred some opposition to his preaching from local residents. None-the-less, Jesus felt the need to go back there; it was home for him.
We also learn from the Scriptures that Jesus had a deep longing to return to Jerusalem, the place where his mother and father took him to be presented in the temple as a child. Sadly enough, however, Jerusalem was also the place where he was scorned by the elders and later crucified.
Let it be clear, however, that for Jesus neither Nazareth nor Jerusalem were truly home for him. He insisted that his home was with the Father, Yahweh-God. This is the place whence he came and where he ultimately hoped to return.
This is what we learn, therefore, from the Scriptures on the Solemnity of the Ascension. Jesus had completed the work that his Father had sent him to accomplish. He preached the coming of the kingdom of God; he healed and taught and brought life to all who came to him. But now it was time for him to return home.
Before leaving his disciples behind, however, he made clear to them that they would not be left behind as orphans without a guide. He would send them the Spirit who would teach them how to carry on the work he had begun. Then he returned to the Father. How he went, whether up or out, or wherever is not a question, he just returned to the place where it all began and now leaves the fulfillment of God’s kingdom up to us who remain.
Perhaps we must finally say therefore that we will never quite feel fully at home on this planet unless we make it a place where much work is still needs to be done until it finally resembles the kingdom of God itself. Then finally we will be home.
The Scriptures: Acts 1: 1-11 • Ephesians 1: 17-23 • Luke 24: 46-53
USCCB Bible Daily Readings: Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord