Covid-19 has proven that we are terribly fragile and defiantly strong. Our world is one of incomprehensible dichotomies, dominated by contrasting views, and vested in divergent hopes. And yet, we are all here together, searching for ways to get through and somehow manage surviving what we cannot possibly control. As Catholics, today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension. In deference to the virus, we celebrate in our cars, in parking lots outside our churches, in makeshift fashion. Humbled, we gather to share the Eucharistic presence and re-name our truths. The truth is that we believe in the presence of God in the world and in the Eucharist. And celebrating it, even in cars and at home live-streamed, we are able to touch on the deepest reality of all: God is present with us, cares for us, and provides for us. In the midst of a pandemic, there is a palpable sense of the sacred.
The feast of the Ascension gives shape to the idea that those we love may not always be with us, but they will never leave us. That phrase, the whisper of the dying, the promise to those about to be orphaned, the acknowledgement of separated lovers and families, yeilds a deeper truth. The mystery of Easter unfolds with the Resurrection, but it becomes reality in the feasts of the Ascension and Pentecost that follow. It is not about the feasts, of course, but about the presence of God in the world, the reality of an unconditional love that transcends human limitiations and defies human expectation.
In a world where physical contact is limited and presence often virtual, denial of the intangible is tempting. But the existence of love cannot be denied; its forms and ideations, even its distortions and misappropriations, are lived out in startling patterns with an alarming regularity. This Sunday, as Catholics, we are invited to consider a Love that is distinctively different. Unconditional Love is not bound by the measures of the human; it is the signature of the Divine. And here, in the weeks after Easter, the expression of Unconditional Love marches confidently into the territory of the mysterious and the sacred. Here is the story of those last experiences of Jesus among his disciples; here He confides the concept that physical presence is not necessary to the continuity of relationship. Here is the idea that his disciples are now charged with the task of sharing, somehow, the idea of Love and relationship that defies the parameters of human understanding.
In grasping for it, we must proceed as Pierre Teilhard deChardin SJ suggested…”as if limits of our abilities did not exist”. In living it, we must see ourselves as he said, as “collaborators in creation.” In hoping for it, we must believe as Teilhard de Chardin did, that “love is a scared reserve of energy”, the force that unites and recreates who and what we are. Love like this is the ultimate tool of creation. It is the kind of love that is born from trust and gives birth to the hope and strength needed to survive a pandemic, to navigate ordinary days and nights, to sculpt a lifestyle and grow into old age.