Ascension turns our doubt to faith

I celebrated a number of funerals this week including the funerals of two mothers. Both mothers were grandmothers with large families, one had eight children while the other mother had twelve.

I celebrated a number of funerals this week including the funerals of two mothers. Both mothers were grandmothers with large families, one had eight children while the other mother had twelve.

You can only begin to imagine what it was like growing up through difficult and tough times. One story related to the mother of twelve on the occasion of the visit from a friend. During the friend’s visit boys and girls kept running in and out of the house. The visitor then asked ‘why do you let all the wains in the street run through your house.’ The mother had to explain that was just her own children. The other woman was a mother of eight who faced a similar challenge of making a little stretch a long way. A case in point was the story told by the family about their mother’s stew when meal times became a party game as you were challenged to find the mince! The mother could feed ten with half a pound of standard mince, not special, that was too expensive.

I was told everyone would have waited patiently until the knock on the kitchen wall signalled dinner was ready. Well. this caused the charge of the Light Brigade as three or four got stuck in the kitchen door in the stampede. When you fought your way into the kitchen you only had seconds to scan the table to see which plate had the most dinner. Of course you never made the mistake of answering the door during dinner unless you took your plate with you.

When we think and recall our memories of our closest family and friends who have died there are often numerous stories we can bring to mind which make us smile, maybe even laugh. While recalling our memories can be tinged with sadness, there is also a sense of gratitude for having known and loved the person. With time there is a sense of how our loved ones remain in our hearts, a constant presence and reminder of all the experiences we have shared together. We try not to dwell on the regrets or hurts which are a part of any relationship, but give thanks for the person they were.

As we celebrate the Ascension when Jesus returned to the Father we experience an event very different from Good Friday. The disciples’ hearts and minds have been expanded, transformed through the presence of the resurrected Christ. In their encounters with the Risen Christ doubt has become faith, fear transformed into hope and the darkness of death gives way to the bright promise of eternal life. Far from abandoning or forsaking his disciples, Jesus is preparing them for a new presence when Jesus will dwell in our hearts through the gift of the Holy Spirit. Physical contact is now transformed into a spirit filled presence which empowers the Church. Jesus’ final act before he ascends, is to raise his hand in blessing. According to Pope Benedict Jesus raises his hands to cover us with his blessing and to open the door to the world above. Jesus’ followers know they are forever blessed and no matter where they go or what their confronted with they will always stand under Jesus blessing, this is why they can still rejoice.