Jesus was taken from the disciples’ sight at the Ascension after giving some parting instructions. After experiencing the death of Jesus on the cross and knowing that His body was laid in the tomb, the disciples previously experienced disillusionment and discouragement. Jesus’ appearances to them after His resurrection renewed in them some hope but also stirred up some fear.
Try to imagine the scene in Mark’s Gospel where we see these disciples listening to His instructions. He had given them a reason for hope, and now He was gone from their midst again. How easy it must have been for them to become discouraged and disillusioned again. But we hear something different from the Gospel account on the readings for the Ascension. They went forth and preached. God worked through them and confirmed the word through amazing signs and wonders.
This Easter season has been a microcosm of the rhythms of each of our lives. Isn’t it true that we get our hopes up, we become discouraged when we are disappointed, and we get our hopes back again when we see some signs of new life only to become discouraged again?
I think we all know the ups and downs of basing our faith and our walk with Jesus on outward signs and wonders rather than what we know to be true of God’s faithfulness. Many of us have gotten off the roller coaster of ups and downs and simply live in cynicism and negativity.
There may have been times we have been disappointed and thus chose to be hopeless. There are others among us who live in a fantasy world in which they believe that as long as a person prays and is faithful to God, then they will have prosperity and no suffering. Both of these scenarios are the opposite of what Jesus showed us in His own life and what He taught us.
In almost every church congregation, Easter season is a time for grand celebrations. We get to celebrate the sacraments of confirmation and first Communion and we see the glowing faces and the excitement of our families. This is the time of year when we are encouraged by the commitments that we witness in priesthood and diaconate ordination. This is the time of year when we are reminded that the Holy Spirit is given to us as our advocate and guide. This is the time of year when we, as a Church, are called by the example of the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. How is this call for renewal and recommitment affecting you during this Easter season?
I suggest that we each take some time to admit to the cynicism and negativity that we initiate or take part in. Could this be the Easter season that we might be courageous enough to hope again? Could we make a decision to quit reading or listening to those programs or podcasts that encourage division and hatred? Is this the time we will choose to ask forgiveness from those we have harmed instead of pretending as if it never happened? Sometimes it is so much easier to just show up at church and look good in public and not deal with the more difficult situations that call for deeper sacrifices and more humility.
If you choose to entertain hope and to decide to live that in your life each day, remember Jesus’ promise. When you do that you will have an abundant life that looks and feels and acts just like the life of God.
Doesn’t that sound more attractive than wallowing in negativity?
Father Wester is pastor of All Saints Parish in St. Peters.