This week we celebrated Ascension Thursday. It is the day Christians celebrate the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. The Feast of the Ascension is not to be confused with the Feast of the Assumption, which is when My Mary was taken into Heaven. Jesus ascended by His own power. My Mary, a mere human, was assumed, or taken up, only by the power of God.
I sat in Mass last night listening to readings I’ve heard countless times before. This time though, the Holy Spirit opened my heart and mind and I understood differently. The last lines of the Gospel of Luke 24: 46-53 caught my attention and I reflected on how I would have acted in the same situation.
Then he led them out as far as Bethany,
raised his hands, and blessed them.
As he blessed them he parted from them
and was taken up to heaven.
They did him homage
and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
and they were continually in the temple praising God.
Think of what is happening here. The Apostles and My Mary and thousands in the crowds had watched Jesus over the last several months. They knew He disappeared into the desert for 40 days to prepare spiritually for the battle of souls that lay ahead. They saw the red carpet, in the form of palm fronds, lay out before Him as He rode as a hero into Jerusalem.
Then they watched things turn quickly. They watched Him tried and condemned, beaten and crowned. They watched Him assigned to a Cross. They watched Him stumble and crawl His way to the top of a hill. They heard each CLANG of the hammer drive nails through His beaten flesh. They watched His chest rise and fall gasping for breath. They watched Him cry out for water. They witnessed Mercy and Hope given a thief in what should have been the disgraced man’s darkest hour.
They heard Him forgive them for things they could never hope to understand.
They watched Him offer up His Spirit.
They watched Him breathe His last.
They felt the darkness reach beyond the sky into the very souls of men.
They stumbled about for three days in confusion and fear and hopelessness. They did not know where to turn or what to do next. Love was gone. They had sold all they had to go with Him and He was no more. They had counted on the humanity of Christ as Savior without realizing the awesome plan of the divinity of Christ as King.
And then they began to understand!
They saw an empty tomb and were heralded by an Angel in radiant white. They recognized their Savior only in the breaking of the Bread. They felt His embrace in an upper room. They put fingers into His wounds.
They hugged Him as a companion, confidant, Savior.
They walked with Him another 40 days. They listened to His Word. They opened their hearts and minds to possibilities they could not have imagined without Him. They found Hope. They believed. They learned to see possibility where they hadn’t before.
They were Loved.
And then, suddenly, He was gone.
In front of their eyes, Jesus Ascended into Heaven and walked with them no more on God’s Earth.
Ascension & Abandonment
There are many parallels in the relationship between Jesus and His followers and that of husband and wife. The marital relationship is full of ups and downs. It, more than any other relationship, ebbs and flows. It is full of good times and bad, sickness and health, riches and poverty. It is that way until in death the couple does part.
It’s like the Church knew something when it wrote those vows.
It’s understandable to think the Apostles had it easy because they knew Jesus personally, but that’s oversimplifying the issue. They knew Him. They knew He was special, but they did not understand Him. They did not understand His mission or His purpose. They caught only bits and pieces of it. Even after the Resurrection, their humanity, like ours, could not have comprehended the full glory of God.
And, just when they were beginning to understand, when things just started becoming more clear, when they finally began wrapping their heads around Jesus inviting them to eternal life, He was gone again. By ascending into Heaven, He left them a second time. This time, they were to face the cruel and hate-filled world with targets on their backs and without Him by their side.
And yet, not one of them became bitter or angry or cowardly. Instead we see they were filled with great joy and continuously praised God.
Their response to Jesus’ Ascension gives insight on how we are to act when abandoned, divorced, or left by a loved one. We are not to harden our hearts, but to fill them with love and joy and praise!
Healing from the Trauma of Abandonment, Divorce, & Loss
Healing from trauma is somewhat of a miracle in itself. It does not come from sitting still, but from a plan of action combined with intentional rest. It comes from listening to the stories of Saints who choose you and whom you choose to reach out to. It comes from asking them to pray for you and your family as members of the Church Triumphant who have been through hardships of their own.
It comes from seeking My Mary and Joseph, her beloved spouse, to be much needed family role models in a time of confusion and aloneness. It comes from laying at the feet of Jesus on the Cross and asking forgiveness for yourself and your spouse. It comes from telling Jesus to hang there until He has suffered enough to pay for what was done to you. It comes from returning often for replenishment.
And healing comes from moving on.
Healing comes from surrendering to God’s Will over our own. It comes from letting go from what we think “should” happen to being present in the moment of what IS happening. It comes from not being swept up in drama that thrives on suffering and fear of what may lie ahead. It comes from finding grace in the moment and exciting possibility in plans that challenge old ways of thinking and present unconsidered possibilities. It comes from being grateful for good times and good things that came from your relationship, especially when your spouse is unable to do the same. It comes from being thankful for lessons learned and wisdom gained.
Healing comes from rekindling old friendships and finding new hobbies. It comes from learning to care for yourself, spending time doing things for yourself, and being at peace with yourself. It comes from rediscovering who you were, who you are, and who you would like to be someday. It comes from allowing the Someday You to crush fear and doubt and gently, patiently guide the Present You. It comes from driven action and quiet reflection. It comes from learning to love yourself.
And sometimes healing comes from the most simple act, like smiling.
Your smile automatically spreads joy to others, and sometimes it is their joy that sets you free.
And maybe, just maybe, joy found in freedom is what God intended for you all along.
The Apostles experienced joy and were able to praise God in the midst of Jesus’s departure because they had learned who He was and who they were. Once they knew that, they became unstoppable. Their missions were clear. Their eternal destinies laid out before them. In that, reasons for joy and praise are obvious.
Take a lesson from the Apostles on Ascension Thursday. Discover who you are and who Christ is in you and you too will be spreading joy and praising God.
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