The "All Ready and Not Yet" Tension
Ascension Thursday (Year B)

Jeremiah R. Grosse
Reproduced with Permission

This morning’s Gospel presents us with Jesus’ directive to the eleven disciples which He gave them after sending them to the mountain. We are told elsewhere that when they saw Him, they worshiped, but they doubted.

These eleven men were living in the tension of the “already but not yet”. They had spent three years traveling with Jesus from Capernaum to Jerusalem. They were all locked in the Upper Room after Jesus’ crucifixion and had seen Him again after He had risen from the dead. They heard the story from Cleopas how he had met Jesus on the road to Emmaus and how Jesus had opened the Scriptures to him and how Cleopas and his companion had come to know that it was Jesus in the breaking of the bread.

Now, here they are, standing on the mountain in Galilee and once again those doubts which they had experienced in the Upper Room are returning. They know that they will no longer have Jesus physically present to them; however, He has promised that He will send the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, to be with them and this Advocate will strengthen and support them in their ministry.

Jesus turns to his disciples and gives them their assignment. “Go, into the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Their parting is bittersweet. They realize that Jesus must ascend to His Father, but they do not want Him to go. They know that Jesus has risen from the dead, but they have not yet experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives and it is in this tension that they are being called to minister to the whole world.

This “already and not yet” tension that I speak of is present in our world as well. You and I have been baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We have been confirmed in our faith and have received the Good News, but Jesus still has not returned. Those early disciples had not yet experienced the power of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but we have. There was no Church for them to turn to; they did not have two thousand years of teaching to help guide and direct them like we do. Those first disciples were relying upon what Jesus had told them and they went forth boldly in His name to make disciples of all nations.

The tension that we experience comes from the fact that Jesus has already given us the Holy Spirit, but He has not yet returned, in glory, as He promised. We live in a culture in which Christianity is not a popular message. It would be rather easy for us to simply

keep this message hidden or simply proclaim it to others when they come to us and ask us about Jesus; however, this is not what Jesus has called us to do. He has called us to make disciples of every nation as well.

Our culture presents Christianity, at best, as simply one of several options. If we visit Barnes and Noble or Borders and stop by the “Religion” section we will see books about Christianity on the shelf next to books about witchcraft, New Age Spirituality, Zen Buddhism, and various other topics.

After all these centuries, the need for evangelization is as great now as it has ever been in our Church’s history.

At best our culture presents Christianity as simply one of several options, but, at worst, it is seen as completely irrelevant and out-dated. How many times have we heard a politician speak with great pride about the fact that he is a member of the Knights of Columbus or a parishioner at the local parish, but when it comes to standing up for his faith in terms of his public office we will hear him say, “Yes, I am Catholic and I am personally opposed to abortion, but I do not let my personal beliefs interfere with the performance of my job.”

This is part of the tension that we live in, remaining faithful to our Church’s teachings in a culture which is openly hostile to our values.

What evidence do we have that the eleven disciples were not simply acting on their own power, but that Jesus was truly with them even though they could no longer see him?

We are told that signs will accompany those who believe. 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. We are also told that they went forth and preached everyone while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.

Do we have any evidence that God is still at work in our Church in 2009? Christ, the mediator between God and man, judge of the world and Lord of all, has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us but to be our hope. He is the beginning, the head of the Church; where He has gone we hope to follow.

He did not leave us as orphans but sent the Holy Spirit to support and sustain us in our faith. He also gave us his Vicar here on earth, Pope Benedict XVI, to help us to stay on the right path and to know where the Church stands, at all times, so that we may always live in conformity with Her teachings.

As we call to mind the death of Our Lord which He endured for our salvation, his glorious resurrection, and ascension into Heaven, and being ready to meet him when He comes again we offer God, in thanksgiving, this holy and living sacrifice, the bread of life and the cup of eternal salvation.

We ask God to look with favor upon His Church’s offering, and see the Victim whose death has reconciled us to Himself. We ask Him to grant that we, who are nourished by Jesus’ body and blood, may be filled with the Holy Spirit, and become one body, one spirit in Christ.

At the end of the liturgy we will be sent forth to bring Jesus to those we encounter today. This is our way of showing the world that Jesus is still very much alive in the Church today.