On Thursday, we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension of Christ, the last time apostles would see Jesus before he was taken into heaven. After all those years of teaching, example, miracles and finally his greatest act of love and mercy on the cross, Jesus had returned to the apostles he befriended and loved for their final instructions. They were never going to see their best friend again in this life but what did Jesus leave them, what did he leave all of us with? He told them not to let their hearts be troubled and that he was preparing a place in heaven for them. The told them that he and the Father were one and whatever they asked for in his name, he would do it. He asked then to keep his commandments, and he let them know that he would not leave them orphans but send a helper, an Advocate to be with them forever – the Holy Spirit. He told them not to be afraid and that the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, who comes from the Father, would teach them everything and remind them of everything he said, giving them the power and authority to teach, perform miracles, forgive sins, and be his witnesses. He asked them to love each other as he loved them, laying down their very lives for each other. He instructed them to spread the Good News, the gospel, to the “ends of the earth,” and promised to return to bring them home to the Father.
Jesus spent a short three years on earth as one of us, pouring himself out in love and showing us the way. He taught us about his Father’s unconditional love and mercy and promised us the strength, power, and guidance of the Holy Spirit. He left us with the Church he told us he would build and the gates of hell would not prevail against. Paul teaches us that that Church is the very body of Christ and the Bride of Christ, as a man and woman become one in marriage. He built that Church on Peter, the rock, left us with his grace through the sacraments of baptism, forgiveness of sins, confirmation through the gifts of the Holy Spirit, marriage, holy orders, healing of the sick, and his real presence in the Eucharist. The apostles passed on the power and authority to act in the person of Christ through the Church that Christ built that holds the fullness of truth through the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not come to spend time with a handful of disciples but to be truly present to all people through his real presence (in the Word and the Eucharist) in his one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
This is powerful stuff if we pay close attention to the words and actions of Christ and understand them through the grace of the Holy Spirit. I would image that few of us have taken the time or have the trust to let them sink into our beings enough to be moved by them. Most people look at the Church Christ built as a man-made institution. It is understandable with a Church made up of sinners that it will fall time after time but the teachings of the Church come not from man but from Christ through the guidance and fullness of truth of the Holy Spirt. Think about the fact that Jesus was completely divine and completely human at the same time. If the Church is the mystical body of Christ, then it is both divine and human at the same time. This is why the Church can be, by design, perfect in its truth and teachings, while still an imperfect community of sinners that do not always follow those truths and teachings as Christ himself. Two sides of the same coin, yet one coin.
There are many faiths in the world, most trying to discover the truth about God and his will for us. Many religions have been started by men and women, and many guided by the will of those men and women vs the will and plans revealed by God himself. Today’s culture teaches us about tolerance, a worthwhile gift, and that no religion or faith is more true or better than another. We should tolerate others beliefs and personal quest for God’s plans for them but it would not be rational to assume that all faiths have the fullness of truth, as many deny the tenants for the other. Does one personal God exist? Is there one true God who is a community of love in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirt as revealed in the Old and New Testaments? Is Jesus who he says he was, one with the Father? Did Jesus build a Church with the fullness of truth? God sent his only Son so that we can know the answers to these questions, that we are sons and daughters of a loving and merciful Father who was willing to give everything for those he created purely out of love. Jesus came to show us that love and what God looks for from us. We are human, and he knew we needed community, divine guidance, and grace through tangible sacraments and his Word. While man has strived to understand the meaning and purpose of his life, the answer is in paying attention to God as he reveals himself vs creating a god in our own image, through man’s imagination. Each religion has wisdom, truth, and the power of God’s spirit in some form or another, but only one faith has the fullness of truth and wisdom created and revealed directly by God’s plan and own person. Jesus let us know THE WAY as he told his apostles, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” While many faiths provide a way towards the truth and knowing God, Jesus provides “the way” toward the fullness of truth and the real presence of God, are revealed by God himself.