I had a very strange set of circumstances happen last week: I got stuck in the Resurrection. Not a bad place to be, but I bet you’re wondering what exactly I mean. It goes like this. Last week, I found myself in St. Louis, an archdiocese that celebrates the Ascension on Sunday rather than Thursday. I returned on Saturday to my home diocese of Hartford, an archdiocese that celebrates the Ascension on Thursday rather than Sunday. So technically, I never had the chance to celebrate liturgically the feast of the Ascension—getting me “stuck” in the Resurrection, or more technically, getting the Resurrected Christ of my spiritual life “stuck” on earth without ascending to Heaven!
I spent quite a bit of time in those “interim days” pondering the Ascension readings and considering what would happen if Jesus had never “returned” to Heaven, but rather remained with us here “even until the end of time.” Part of me thinks that would be a pretty incredible reality—that every living human person from the moment of the Incarnation would have an opportunity to meet, touch, hear, see, and experience the risen Jesus “in the flesh.” Certainly the entire population of the world would believe in the Christ if we had the opportunity to experience him with our own eyes and ears. Right? Well…let’s think about that.
We do have that opportunity. He didn’t ascend and abandon us. He ascended and remained with us. The risen Body of Christ remains in our midst, both sacramentally in the Eucharist and incarnationally in us, the people of God who are His Body. Right there in the Ascension Gospel we read: “While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?’ ” Why are you looking for Jesus up there? Instead, look inside. Look around. You can’t miss him if you know what you’re looking for.
A friend of mine recently made an inadvertently comical statement as she tried to explain why she is sometimes difficult to reach. She said something like, “If I’m not here, I’m somewhere else. But no matter where I am, I’m always somewhere.” Funny, right? Maybe…but not if we consider it from the point of view of the risen, ascended, always-present Christ. He’s always somewhere nearby—nearer to us than we are to our very selves. Happy Ascension.