May 12, 2018

The Mystery of the Unseen Guest

We call the event we have heard announced in the Gospel, the Ascension of Christ into heaven. When He died on Calvary, He descended into the hell of death. On the third day He rose from the dead. And forty days later, He entered into heaven. From heaven, He will return again.  

However, although He is no longer before our eyes, and heaven, which we often presume is beyond us, the question might be asked, "How can Christ still walk with us, share in our celebrations, joys, our struggles, or does he, from heaven?' How does He, in a manner of speaking, just tune into what we are doing here on earth? Or is this all simply poetical talk, in the same way as we might say we would wish to keep someone close to our hearts?

Never think that Christ's presence is simply sentimental, or He is in fact far away - in another universe or in some distant unreachable place above the clouds. Take comfort that He is now close to us. In fact, the reality of His presence is now greater than it was with any of His disciples two thousand years ago when He walked among them. We are reminded of this truth in various ways.

For starters, He told us that when two or three have gathered in His name, He would be in our midst. Every time we pray together calling upon Him, not just at church, but at home, in fact anywhere, He is there in our company. Think of it - even when you say the" Grace before meals", He is the unseen guest at every table.

The reality of the Christ who entered into heaven still being with us is here can be illustrated by how we listen and respond to the Gospel being proclaimed out loud for the whole world to listen, especially when an ordained minister does so. It’s not a public reading of a portion of the world’s best selling book. Anyone can do that.  Instead, a priest or a deacon allows his hands and his feet, his tongue and his mouth to be consumed by the presence and voice of Christ still announcing the Good News of the Kingdom of God. And how do we respond after hearing the Gospel? We do not reply,  "praise to you deacon or praise to you pastor!” We instead respond "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ”. It is Christ who teaches and who preaches. And if I should get in the way, then he will put his foot in my mouth!!

And, of course, the Christ of heaven, enters into our company most intimately by way of the Holy Eucharist - in what we call his Real Presence - in other words - a presence that is substantial, localized, where, if we could see with the eyes of angels, we would point and say “Look, behold the Lamb of God, heaven has opened up before us and we see the risen and glorified Christ before us.” And that is indeed our prayer of our soul.  

Therefore Mass is not a ladder that reaches through the clouds. Instead, it is more like a bridge, a pathway to heaven that is opened, a veil or curtain pushed aside and with the eyes of faith we can gaze upon Christ face to face, as did the shepherds and kings in Bethlehem - as did Mary, in the quiet moments of adoration and thanksgiving, as did the disciples in the Upper Room at the Last Supper and after His resurrection from the dead. 

And let's not forget that Christ was with St. Paul all along the road to Damascus. When the Lord allowed him to see Him, it was too much for Paul's eyes to behold and they "exploded" blinding him for three days until his sight was restored back to normal when he was baptized.

Today, even though we, who are baptized into the life, death, resurrection and glorious ascension of Christ into heaven, can not see Him as He truly is in all His glory, let us never ourselves be blind to the reality of Christ accompanying us on our journey - that heaven itself is always before us in some form or another. Maybe all it takes is to close our eyes and make just one leap of faith in the right direction and we will see before our eyes, the substantial reality of heaven itself - Christ true God and True Man. May our Blessed Mother Mary share with us the privileged of her insight along the way.

“Today we are not only established as the rightful owners of paradise, but in Christ, we have entered into the heights of heaven itself.” ( St. Leo the Great, Sermon 73.)


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