By Nimmi Candappa
Having gone through the trials of isolation, many of us would be fully aware of the pain involved in being away for extended periods from our loved ones. Lockdown restrictions keeping us away from those who give us love and support, those whose presence gives us meaning in life. The apostles experienced this twice in their time with Jesus. Firstly, losing Him through the trauma of crucifixion. Then, having seen Him risen from the dead, they have to endure losing Him again physically when He ascends into Heaven.
This week the Church celebrates the feast of the Ascension. With reflection, the feast can challenge us in several ways. As Christians, along with aspects of our faith like the resurrection of the body, an after-life and physical healing, Jesus ascending in bodily form into Heaven can challenge human rational thought. Yet Jesus reminds us that God, as Creator, controls the created. Nothing is beyond God’s power. The Ascension challenges us to hold firm to the hope instilled by our faith, even when the world around us dismisses that which we cannot see. It also challenges us to look beyond the pain of our circumstances, trusting in God’s promise of ultimate blessing.
It is often written that the many spiritual accomplishments of St Eugene were realised through much hardship and pain. Through these challenges, St Eugene chose to identify with Jesus, know Him more deeply and then take Him to those abandoned. Despite opposition from those around him, he dared to be radical in bringing the Gospel to all, not just the elite. In response to a dire need of the Church for priests, he sent priests he could ill-afford, looking beyond the rational to see God’s power to meet the needs of all. This led to a thriving order of Oblate priests in nearly 70 countries, helping so many, particularly those least likely, to discover Christ in and around us.
While celebrating the Feast of the Ascension, we might like to bring to mind this mighty God Who commands our natural world. We might consider how readily we believe in God’s ability to control all aspects of creation. We might look at areas in our physical and spiritual lives that challenge us or are difficult to overcome, and consciously place these in the hands of this mighty God. Trusting in His power to bring about blessings from our burdens, when we choose to keep our eyes on Him.