GROWTH AND CREATIVITY
The Gospels offer us different keys to understand how the first Christian communities began their historical journey without the presence of Jesus in front of his followers. Maybe it all wasn’t as simple as we sometimes think. How did they understand and live out their relationship with him, once he had disappeared from the earth?
Matthew doesn’t say one word about his ascension to heaven. He ends his Gospel with a scene of leave-taking on a mountain in Galilee on which Jesus makes a solemn promise to them: «Know that I am with you always, even until the end of the world». The disciples shouldn’t feel his absence. Jesus will always be with them. But how?
Luke offers a different vision. In the last scene of his Gospel, Jesus «withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven». The disciples have to accept the separation completely realistically: Jesus now lives in the mystery of God. But he rises to the Father as he «blesses» his own. His followers begin their journey protected by that blessing with which Jesus healed the sick, forgave the sinners and hugged the little ones.
John the Evangelist put in Jesus’ mouth some words that propose another key aspect. When he takes his leave of his own, Jesus tells them: «I go to the Father and you are saddened… however it’s best that I go, so that you may receive the Holy Spirit». The disciples’ sadness is understandable. They want the security of having Jesus always near them. It’s the temptation of living in an infantile way under the protection of the Teacher.
Jesus’ answer shows a teaching wisdom. His absence will make his followers grow in maturity. He leaves them the stamp of his Spirit. This will be the one who, in Jesus’ absence, will promote in his followers a growth that is responsible and adult. It’s good to remember this at some points in which there seems to be growing among us a certain fear of creativity, a temptation to stay stuck, or a nostalgia for a Christianity worked out for other times and another culture.
We Christians have fallen more than once throughout history in the temptation of living out our following of Jesus in infantile ways. The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord reminds us that, when the historical presence of Jesus ended, we are living «the time of the Spirit», a time of creativity and of responsible growth. The Spirit hands on to Jesus’ followers «eternal prescriptions». The Spirit give us light and breath to go seeking always new paths in order to reproduce God’s action today. That’s how the Spirit leads us toward the full truth of Jesus.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf