I often remind people in homilies at wakes or funerals that we die the way we live.
We could say the same about the life of Christ—He died the way He lived, totally given to the Father’s will and lovingly obedient unto the Cross, his mission.
We also come into the world with a mission that gives our life meaning and answers questions about who we are, why we came into this world, or rather, why we were sent here.
There are five defining moments in the life of Christ: his Baptism, the Transfiguration, the Cross, the Resurrection and today’s feast, his Ascension.
The first four events reveal and define more progressively Christ’s identity and mission—that He is the beloved Son whose mission is to be pleasing to the Father.
We first learn this in his Baptism. Midway through his journey, we hear this again in the Transfiguration, where Christ has to make a deeper choice, a decision to go full steam ahead with his mission.
The choice to proceed to Jerusalem meant his willingness to enter the core of his relationship with God, his Father—and to be the Beloved Son in whom his Father is well-pleased.
Jungian therapist and spiritual writer Robert Johnson captures the process within the frame of the journey of human development.
“Fate is kind and allows us two chances in life when the veil between consciousness and the unconscious grows thin. One of these is in mid-adolescence, when one is gratuitously allowed to see a great vision, and the other is in midlife, when he has a second chance to touch the visionary life if he has earned the right,” Johnson said.
He added, “It is only when a man is at his best—by naiveté in his youth or by having earned the right in middle age—that he is capable of seeing the sublime fact…the Grace of God is always available, but man must ask for it before it is effective.”
Johnson also reminds that the meaning of life “is not in the quest for one’s own power or enhancement, but lies in the service of that which is greater than one’s self.”
A second chance
The Transfiguration is “midlife,” and with his fidelity and loving obedience to the Father’s will, Christ has earned the right to “a second chance to touch the visionary life” and more clearly see his mission.
He makes his way to Jerusalem to willingly die on the Cross as a ransom for all.
The Resurrection also offers the fullness and glory of how well-pleased the Father is, after that one perfect sacrifice that changes everything.
With the Cross and the Resurrection, we are shown that life does not end in death.
Roseanne Sanders, whom we have quoted in the past, says it succinctly: “What we have done will not be lost to all eternity. Everything ripens and bears fruit in its own hour.”
The core of our relationship with God is, always will be, and can never be anything else but following the Cross and the Resurrection.
Our own identity and mission, individually and personally, follow this pattern.
Today, we celebrate the Ascension where Christ hands over the mission to his first community.
It is the commissioning of the apostles to “go and make disciples of all nations,” along with the promise that “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Howard Gardner’s book “Leading Minds” studied the stories of more than 20 great leaders in various fields who changed the course of history, most especially in their sphere of influence.
Gardner observed that every great leader has a story to tell, and others find their own stories through his. This is how the community of followers is formed.
Christ adds another dimension to this gift of leadership in the Ascension.
“All power (or authority) in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,” He said.
His authority assumes universal and majestic proportions because He shares it. He hands it over and entrusts it to his friends, to the community of men who lived out and proclaimed the Cross and Resurrection of Christ in their missionary life.
In one of his homilies, Fr. Horacio de la Costa, SJ, reflects on authority. Using the story of the centurion who pleads with Christ to heal his servant, he points out that authority is life-giving. The very meaning of the word is to give life, to create.
Today, Christ passes on his authority to his followers, who in turn created the first Christian community that we remember and celebrate.
Christ died the way he lived, and this makes our following of his pattern of life possible.
It is not simply an inspiring thought or story. It involves real grace, and the spirit that helps us live out this pattern of the Cross and Resurrection in our life.