Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter
As they sit around the table of the Last Supper, listening as Jesus speaks of returning to the Father, surely the apostles are in a reflective mood. Perhaps they recalled the first time He’d spoken to them of His return to Heaven. It was after the Multiplication of the Loaves when some of His disciples had said, regarding His claims of being the true bread from heaven and His flesh and blood being true food and drink, “This saying is hard; who can accept it?” Jesus replied, “Does this shock you? What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before?” It was at this point many abandoned Him, but Peter and the others remained. (John 6:53-71)
It seems to the apostles, there at table, that everything is starting to make sense; Jesus’ words finally have a plainness to them, a clarity that is not wrapped up in parable and metaphor, and everything seems to “click” at last. Because of what He has been telling Him, they finally—after three years of miracles and teaching!—confess their belief that Jesus came from God. In John 6:69 Peter, speaking on behalf of the others, confesses their belief that He is the Holy One of God: the Messiah, the Chosen One. Only now do they get it: He’s more than another David.
Jesus fears it may be too little, too late, however, for just as His beloved friends have found their faith it is to be tested in the most unimaginable way possible. They will be scattered, they will abandon the one who, just now, they confessed to be the Son of God. While they will abandon Him, He will not be abandoned by God, by the Father to whom He shall soon return.
What does all of this have to do with us? Brothers and sisters, “in the world you will have trouble!” But take courage: Jesus has conquered the world. Our faith is tested daily: the apostles had the benefit of three years of intimacy with the Son of God, and they witnessed the resurrection. Most of us will not face the persecution and martyrdom they did but we will, nonetheless, have our faith tested in significant ways. In returning to the Father Jesus gives us hope, as though He now stands over the world that crushed Him, saying, “The world cannot conquer its King, nor shall it conquer you.” Jesus’ ascension gives us hope that no suffering in this life is forever, that our journey does not end here. We are His Body, part of the very same Body that now sits at the right hand of the Father: there is where our journey ends and eternal life begins. Be not afraid: He has gone before us in all things. God did not abandon Him; He shall not abandon us, either.