I’m writing this from my father’s house in Georgia. Juanita and I are here for the high school graduation of one of our godsons. It is also an opportunity to spend some time with my father and Juanita’s mother. These visits are times to catch up, but also times to remember our parents who no longer with us.
I mention this because this weekend we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. It is the second time that Jesus leaves His apostles. First, they watched the death and burial of Jesus, after which for three days they hid. They feared they might likewise be arrested and possibly even crucified themselves. For three days they likely wondered what was to come next, having given up their previous lives to follow Jesus.
Then for 50 days the apostles traveled, dined, and rejoiced with the resurrected Jesus! Even though during this time Jesus told them he would be leaving for the Father, I can’t help but think it was hard for the apostles to witness Jesus leave them a second time. I imagine they were feeling much the same as I did visiting my mother’s final resting place. I have a sense of peace knowing my mother is with the Father, but a longing to have her with me still.
But as we know, nine days after His ascension Jesus’ apostles received the gift of the Holy Spirit, which we celebrate as Pentecost. Fortified with the Holy Spirit the apostles went from hiding behind locked doors to boldly proclaiming the Good News. They went from fearing being discovered as a follower of Jesus to living out their commission out among the people, even accepting their persecution as a true sign of their discipleship. This gift was just as Jesus promised.
We mourn the death of loved ones in large part because they are no longer with us. We often fear a future without that loved one. Yet as we hear the promises of Jesus fulfilled in His ascension and Pentecost, we who mourn should be comforted in these words of our Savior: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be” (Jn 14:1-3).
Memories of my mother are bittersweet. They remind me of the love she had for me, while making me realize how much I miss her. Strength to move forward comes from actually being a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit of God, and thus being empowered to fully trust in the promise of Jesus having a place for her in His Father’s house.
In the peace of Christ y’all,