16 May 2021
This past Thursday, the Christian church celebrated the Solemnity of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. For forty days, following the Resurrection of Jesus, He appeared to His disciples and many others.
You know, just outside of the old walled city of Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, there stands a small, circular mosque of little architectural or artistic value. In truth, it is really a quite simple in appearance. But while this building may appear insignificant, for tourists, it’s existence is an integral part of our Christian faith. For in this tiny circular building, maintained by Muslims, there is a spot where it is believed, our blessed Lord ascended into Heaven.
The most notable part of this mosque is a human footprint preserved like a fossil in the stone floor that is purported to be the right footprint of Jesus; the very place where He ascended from this earth into the glory of Heaven. To those who see it, this footprint is a seed of their faith, that not only did Jesus really ascended into Heaven, but that Jesus really is Who He said He Is: the Word that was made flesh, both God and man, who would become the Savior, Redeemer and Regenerator of all mankind.
Jerusalem, the city of peace. The city that Jesus went with Mary & Joseph when he was 12. The city that He came into triumphantly at age 33 on Palm Sunday, the city where He was tried and condemned to death by crucifixion by the Romans and the area where He ascended.
Today, in Jerusalem, and especially now in the Gaza strip, located 60 miles from Jerusalem, there is anything but peace. So many wars and much destruction over the centuries, and now again, the world watches as the Jewish nation and the Palestinians are on the brink of total war again. It is not surprising, that Jesus, the Prince of Peace, wept over the city of Jerusalem.
On this, the 7th Sunday of Easter, we hear the words of Jesus spoken at the Last Supper. He gave His final teachings to His first chosen prior to His Passion. As for most of His life, Jesus constantly sought His heavenly Father in prayer. What we hear in today’s Gospel is a part of what is known as His High-Priestly prayer. So, what does Jesus pray for in today’s Gospel?
- He prays for unity: “Holy Father, keep them in Your name that you have given Me,so that they may be one just as We are one.
- He prays for the protection of His Apostles: When I was with them, I protected them in Your name that You gave Me,and I guarded them, and none of them was lost except the son of destruction,
- He prays for their success in spreading His “Good News:” But now I am coming to You.I speak this in the world so that they may share My joy completely. I gave them Your word, and the world hated them, because they do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. I do not ask that You take them out of the world but that You keep them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world any more than I belong to the world. Consecrate them in the truth. Your word is truth. As You sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate Myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”
Jesus was to continue to pray unto the Father in this 17th chapter of John’s Gospel. Not only does he pray for His disciples, but He now prays for all believers: “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus also shares these words in John 10:16: “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So, there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
I am sure that following the Ascension of Jesus, the disciples were put to the test. No longer did they have their teacher to walk with, in a physical sense. But the Ascension of Jesus was not the end of His story, but rather a new beginning, for the next chapter would take place the following Sunday, which we celebrate the Solemnity of the Pentecost, where the followers of the Lord, gathered in an upper room, would experience the descent of the Holy Spirit, sealing their ministry which the Lord had spoken unto them about.
Rev. Fr. Robert M. Koerber