Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A long distance personal relationship

We've all heard that a personal relationship with Jesus is essential to one's salvation. The second glorious mystery, the Ascension of Our Lord into heaven, reminds us that our personal relationship with Jesus is, for the most part, a long distance one. He is seated at the right hand of the father and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

The relationship is alive and real and yet when we say "Jesus is in our hearts" it bears resemblance to a couple maintaining in a long distance relationship, writing letters, making phone calls, remembering each other in their hearts, and longing for personal contact.

In some sense, after our Lord ascends, the apostles are in the same boat we are when it comes to our personal relationship with Jesus. When we compare our relationship with the infant Jesus with the relationship Mary, Joseph, and the Shepherds had we feel painfully aware that our relationship is but a pale shadow of theirs. And so it continues into Jesus public ministry and his Passion and Resurrection. We can always draw symbolic parallel between their experiene and ours, but we were not there, we were not with the Lord as they were. Yet after the Ascension, they are just as removed from his physical presence as we are. Thus begins a period of waiting and longing which characterizes Lent, Advent, and the entire Christian journey.

One can almost understand one of the oldest criciticisms against the Christian faith, namely that the Christian religion has its head in the sky, awaiting the return of the Lord, and entirely unconcerned with the oh so important affairs of this world. Having journeyed with Jesus, learned from him, watched him die and rise, and to witness him ascending to the heavens, what on this earth could be worth paying attention to? Why can't we follow him? Why can't we follow him now?

Jesus answers this question before it is even asked by telling us we will be his "witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Just as Our Lord died and rose so we could be with him, we need to remain apart from him so that others may be with him as well. And so, rather than causing us to withdraw from the Lord, our longing to be with the Lord in heaven should inspire us to spread the good news about the Lord so others may be with him in heaven as well. Far from removing us from our worldly duties, our heavenly gaze should give meaning and purpose to our worldly duties. Or, as Saint Paul reminds us (1 Corinthians 10:31),
whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God

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