|by Angela (Lambert) Jendro|
May 13th, 2018 Ascension of the Lord and 7th Sunday of Easter
Gospel of Mark 16:15-20 NAB
Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So, then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.
Today as a Church we remember Christ’s Ascension into Heaven when He returned to His rightful glory. Jesus our king had left the comfort and majesty of His throne, to battle sin and death for His subjects, which could only be accomplished as one of us. He entered the war zone at the Incarnation. The Son of God Who is infinite in His divinity accepted the burden of the limitations our human nature. In addition, as if human kingship wouldn’t already be a far cry from His experience as Divine king, He chose instead the most difficult circumstances in human society – poverty and social rejection.
Our king is someone Who walks among His people, rolls up His sleeves and works side by side with us in our most difficult struggles. He doesn’t stand aloof but rather He invites us into His own glory. When He became our Brother by human nature, He raised us to His brothers and sisters in His divinity. Though we do not become God, we do participate in His divinity and our nature is elevated above its usual limitations. How? After His Ascension Jesus sent His Spirit Who dwells in the souls of all the baptized and enables them to share in the work of Christ and become His Mystical Body.
In addition to opening the gates of Heaven for us, Jesus modelled the way. His glory began with His self-emptying (the fancy theological word for it is kenosis) and so our final glory requires this same emptying of self, service of others, and humble obedience to the Father’s will. St. Paul describes it beautifully in his letter to the Philippians:
|“If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but [also] everyone for those of others.
Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:1-11 NAB
Jesus took on the hardest and lowest jobs. He was born in a barn, lived as a refugee in Egypt for the first years of His life, grew up with manual labor as His “career”, and walked wherever He travelled. During the three years of His public ministry He faced rejection by His own townspeople who tried to throw Him off a cliff, the Pharisees and Sadducees plotted against Him even though He is the Word of God they supposedly protected, His own friends betrayed Him, and He died with an unjust conviction under false claims in the most humiliating and torturous way the Romans had contrived – naked on a Cross. The night before His death, He prepared His apostles to reign in His stead by washing their feet – the most disgusting task which would traditionally be assigned to whomever was lowest on the totem pole – of the servants the slaves and of the slaves the foreign slaves.
So, who wants to reign with Christ? Doesn’t this sound fun?! If Christ’s life ended on the Cross, then NO. Absolutely Not! But it didn’t. Because He humbled Himself, the Father exalted Him above every name and at His Name, every knee should bend. Jesus rose from the dead and 40 days later He ascended to unmatched glory in Heaven. He assures us that if we follow Him, the way will be hard, but it will culminate in unending joy.
|“The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” Matthew 23: 11-12 NAB|
Christian disciples share in the mystery of Jesus’ Royal Poverty. Rather than looking side to side to see what everyone else is doing, we look up and down – up to Christ in glory and to His will, and down to where we might humbly serve. If we keep our glance up and down, down and up, we will discover harmony within the tension of humble service and risen glory – the royal poverty that can only be found by abiding in the One who accomplished it – Jesus Christ.
So, let us wait in eager anticipation for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (next Sunday). He empowers us to serve and to reign, to obey and to be glorified. He empowers us to love. Love puts the beloved before oneself, and experiences joy at every sacrifice. The Holy Spirit is the love of the Father and Son, and He pours their love into our hearts with such generosity that as it overflows all selfishness and pride pours over the edges with it. The deepest happiness is love – both given and received. We have received the greatest of loves from Christ our Lord and Brother and His Spirit gifts us with the same love for Christ and our fellow brothers and sisters in Him.
- Meditate on the love of Christ who desired to become your Brother. What does it mean to be a brother? What does it mean to be His brother or sister in return?
- Today is Mother’s Day. Consider the Christ-like love of motherhood: sacrifice of one’s bodily comfort, unconditional and personal love, the acceptance of humble tasks like changing diapers, the intercession for her children with relentless prayers. Consider your own mother’s love expressed in humble service toward you. Offer a prayer of thanksgiving and blessing for her.
- Ask Christ how you might empty yourself more. To what are you still attached? What holds you back from following Him? What task feels too low to take up, or what feels too good to give up?
- Pray for greater faith and hope. Humbling ourselves is a tremendous risk. We live in a competitive culture of self-assertion. If we don’t exalt ourselves, we will be overrun if God doesn’t exalt us. Pray for the grace to step out in faith that we need only humble ourselves, and God will take care of the exalting.
- How much do you look side to side – comparing yourself to others or the standards of the world? How might you look up and down more in those situations?
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Each day this week acknowledge someone’s humble, loving service and thank them.
- Each day look up in prayer, then down for an opportunity to serve, then offer that service back up to the Lord as a sacrifice of praise or intercession for someone. Try to do it in the morning, midday, and evening. Even every hour if you can.
- The Ascension of Christ & the Surprising Nature of the Kingdom of God
- Love and Work – The Good Shepherd Who Loves His Job
- Longing For Nearness to the One We Love…Scripture Meditation for the Solemnity of the Ascension of Christ
~ Written by Angela Jendro © 2018
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