Ascension of our Lord
The gospel pen of St. Luke the Evangelist, filled by the ink of the Holy Spirit for twenty four glorious chapters, appropriately runs dry on a priceless scene. A small band of motley men whose lives had been turned every which way but loose by Jesus of Nazareth, strained for their last eternity glimpse of him.
Thirty three years earlier, the infant feet of God toddle their fist visible prints on earth, a young mother's footprints chasing close behind. The walk grew rough, the path strewn with stones and thorns. Now God incarnate stepped off this planet with feet scarred and bruised. As our heavenly Father predicted at the fall, the ancient serpent struck Christ's heel, but on the day He ascended, all things were under Christ's feet. Jesus Christ walked the way of humanity so that humanity could walk the way of God. How beautiful the feet that brought good news!
Not one of those disciples was very sorry He had come their way even though their losses were incalculable. Most of their friends were gone, much of their family, their jobs, were all things of the past. The blessings of their fathers, public safety, and now, only a Leader they could see. Yet they left the
The sufferings of this world simply could not compare to the glory He revealed to them. It sustained and swelled them along after the invisible became visible. You and I are the spiritual descendants of Peter, James, John and all the others who offered their lives, not for what they thought or what they hoped, but for what they convincingly knew in their heart and soul was the truth of Jesus Christ, whom they knew, and unflinchingly followed. Our faith is based on truth and no one can convince us of anything differently.
Jesus, the One and the Only, the title is his forever. He was the One and Only long before He breathed a soul into humanity and He will continue to be the One and Only long after the last soul has been judged. He is changeless and He is ours. And we are his. But we are all destined for change. So determined is our God to transform us, we cannot draw near him and remain the same as before. May our tenure on this planet be characterized by one simple word ... Jesus!
Today on this feast of his return to the right hand of the eternal Father, we praise the Lord for becoming flesh and taking up residence among us. We have observed his glory, that glory as the One and Only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from his fullness (John 1: 4, 16). As we thank the Son of God for revealing himself to us afresh, particularly in the prayer life of the Church, in the private devotions and prayers we utter within the chambers of our soul so that our lives are a reflection of the ever increasing glory of our God!
The only way we can continue to remain united with him, the only we can stay devoted is the very same way the disciples fulfilled themselves by remaining in the temple, certain of the coming of the Holy Spirit, in prayer and adoration, always waiting for an abundance of his grace to overflow the treasure of heaven and be poured out upon them.
Prayer is the great means to sanctification. The disciples go to the temple to remain in the presence of God. Believers in Christ are invited to go to "...the inner room, to close the door and pray to the Father in secret" Matthew 6: 6. For them and for us, our soul is the secret chamber. We are not called upon to read prayers, or say prayers, but to actually pray, to be possessed of a prayer life!
We have already fixed the time of prayer: always; and the place: the chamber of our soul, our interior being. Before considering how to pray, we need first to understand by what means we are to keep ourselves in the established place during the prescribed time; for though it is not an easy matter to enter this spiritual dwelling, it is only all too easy to slip out. If we are to pray in our interior, we have to find out how to stay there, before the manner of our prayer is understood. Otherwise, not remaining within ourselves as our Lord commanded, we shall understand nothing of what He would say to us, for speaking of the soul He tells us, "I will allure her, and will entrance her, I will lead her into the wilderness, and I will speak to her heart" Hosea 2: 16.
This solitude is our interior chamber, the soul which we enter by applying the key of faith - our unconditional belief in his veracity - to the keyhole of a proper disposition, that is, the knowledge of what He wants done together with the determination to do it, and by turning the knob, - an act of the will by which, come what may, we are to remain alone with our thoughts, our real self, to find ourselves and him. We have entered now, with his help, but are we going to stay?
What a simple thing to close the door! We leave all cares outside and immediately it is accomplished? No. The door was shut by an act of the will, yes. But at times, and very frequently, too, perhaps, it will rattle and creek and actually blow open. What is the matter? Ah, we forgot to look after the windows ... the windows of this interior dwelling are the bodily senses. Now do we understand clearly?
Only one conclusion can be drawn from the foregoing and it is the right one. If during the time of prayer we wish to be in a condition suitable for communication with our Maker, it is absolutely necessary, outside of the actual periods given to prayer, to curb the bodily senses, that is, to practice mortification. Mortification is only another name for recollection, to strengthen ourselves on the idea of praying. Should this not be done, what will happen? We come to prayer with a thousand and one worldly ideas dashing around wildly in a mad marathon; and a million and one pictures are thrust upon our imagination, then, and there is difficulty in keeping the door closed!
Just as the disciples were able to pray well, if we wish to do the same during fixed times of prayer, we must, and this is of cardinal importance, preserve during the day the spirit of prayer, a spirit of mortification, or recollection. We must be insistent on the point because if we recall we hear the Lord telling us always and it is only by preserving a spirit of prayer, continually, that we can and must keep his commandment. But by cooperating with his grace we can achieve in this life what ardently God yearns to see it accomplished in every soul that He created, that degree of union with him through prayer which He has been blessed to ordain for our needs. He tells us what He longs for: "If anyone loves me he will keep my word and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our abode within him" John 14: 26. What a promise and it is fulfilled with the disciples! And it can be fulfilled with us!
Why do we communicate with our God? That is, why do we pray? Because we love and we measure our love by the frequency and fervor, though not sensible fervor, of our prayers, our communications with him. If we really love him, twenty four hours in the day, if we really love him always, we would want to communicate, converse, speak, talk with him always. And this would be to pray always. By preserving the disposition for prayer throughout the entire day and night, we are praying always and consequently living out our love for him continually. So we come to see the necessity for this spirit of prayer, the priority of recollection, the spirit of mortification, constantly pushing aside anything and everything which enters our heart and mind that is alien to our Christian baptismal vocation, so that we can transfer ourselves to his presence at any moment when the legitimate responsibilities of life are fulfilled for a time.
We no longer question the necessity of closing the door tightly, we proceed to learn how this is accomplished. So we must attend to the windows of our senses to prevent entrance of disturbing drafts which means that outside of the time actually set aside for prayer, we must try to keep ourselves disposed for prayer by resolutely doing what we know our God wants us to do simply for the reason that He desires this from us. God wishes communication with us always and we must practice in a disposition which easily leads to it by the goal of our existence according to his design.
Real prayer, sincere, earnest, determined efficacious prayer is based on humility. We overcome the animal in us by humbling the senses, by killing the pride of our eyes and of the ears and of the touch and of the tongue. Pride is the root of all evil, the root of all sin and it is another name for self and exalted love. By stamping out self, this pride, we thereby advance in humility which is the root of virtue. Mortification of the senses is most excellent and will most speedily, most efficiently bring us to God. Mortification of the will is the finest kind of humiliation we can practice. If we add the mortification of our legitimate desires, we have the quickest, the safest and most certain road to God in prayer. Then we submit our freedom of action, insofar as it is compatible with the state of our life.
Prayer life can be enriched as it was for the disciples in the temple because they patiently waited for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. They eagerly sought to be instruments of his grace. They waited earnestly in that holy place to be fortified for the days to come. Before we begin, we pray as we consider, we pray as we conclude our tasks and responsibilities, we pray. Prayer encompasses us totally and completely. It makes everything possible, and the feast of the Ascension teaches us this valuable lesson.