“The Purifying Power of His Name”
Seventh Sunday of Easter:May 13, 2018
Acts 1: 15-17; 21-26/Psalm 1/1 John 5: 9-13/John 17: 11-19
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
This Sunday is the Sunday before Pentecost, but ten days before this, the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ happened. I would like to connect my message to what happened during this Feast. What is the Ascension? In Ephesians 1:19-23, it says, “19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.” Jesus fills all things everywhere with Himself.
The Ascension is Jesus’ exaltation to the right hand of God, not His evacuation. The Ascension is not about the absence of Christ. On the contrary, it’s about His ubiquitous presence. Sometimes, we go through things and we say, “It seems that You have left me. You have abandoned me.” In the story of the Footprints in the Sand, it was a journey of the life of a person, and there were two sets of footprints. In the toughest time of his life, suddenly he sees one set of footprints. He made a foolish conclusion to say to God, “Why would You abandon me at this time?” God said to him, “Excuse Me, son, those were My footprints. I was carrying you. I will never leave you. I will never abandon you.”
The Ascension is not Jesus evacuating and saying, “Your world is a mess. I will leave you.” He had said in Scriptures, “How long will I be with you?” It was not Him escaping; in fact, He said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me now and the age to come. Behold, I am with you always even to the end of the age.” How could He say this and leave?
Jesus is more present now than He was before He ascended, so it is not about His absence, but His pervasive presence that permeates and fills all things. This is what Catholic means: universal and all encompassing, all pervading, and all permeating. We are not a religious sector. The kingdom of God is here, to be established here, and to permeate all other sectors of society. We are here to conquer this world for God. We are here to plant His banner here on earth.
If we think of Ascension as an escape for Jesus, we would think that someday, we would follow suit. Our blessed hope is sanctification, resurrection and glorification, not evacuation. We would rather call the return of Jesus as St. Paul’s language as His appearing rather than His return. Jesus has never left. He is right here, His presence is right here. We don’t see because His realm and our physical realm are separated by just a thin veil. The mystics would say that the veil is very thin that they could almost see the veil that His presence is very strong.
In times that we think that God has abandoned us, we will have this feeling that God’s presence is a lot stronger before we got into a situation. Jesus is right here; He fills all things with Himself everywhere. This is our God! He will appear and we will see Him in the unveiling when the curtain is pulled back. We will see Him and we will know Him, and we will realize that which has always been true – Jesus is Lord; Jesus has all authority. Sometimes, we will only see sin, the corruption in the world, not seeing Jesus reigns over all sin, authority, power and rule – far above all. The song says, “Even if the wrong seem oft so strong, God is the Ruler yet.” One day, in the unveiling, we will see, and what would be fulfilled is what we say in the Eucharist, “Then, in Your kingdom, freed from corruption of sin and death, we shall sing Your glory with every creature through Christ our Lord.” Another version says, “There with the whole of creation, freed from the corruption of sin and death, may we glorify You through Christ our Lord, through whom You bestowed on the world all that is good.” We also pray, “Bring us into that heavenly kingdom where with all Your saints, we may enter into the everlasting heritage of Your sons and daughters.”
In this world where we live in, what we do is to pursue temporal things. We pursue that which perishes, those that are fleeting. Where Jesus is right now, where He ascended is not a geographical location, but is a higher kingdom, He pursues the things of God. Heaven is not place but is higher plane; God doesn’t dwell in temples. Heaven is where the presence, the glory, and the dominion of God reigns. God’s location is not defined by geographical coordinates. Space, time, matter can’t contain God; they are contained in Him. God is greater than the universe and He can’t be limited by earthly powers. He is always with us.
The right hand of God is a position of absolute, supreme authority over all things, and heaven is a different dimension, but yet, it encompasses the world of His love. Jesus was asked by a Scribe of what the greatest commandment is, and He told him of the Summary of the Law – to love God and to love his neighbor with all his heart, his soul. The Scribe agreed, and Jesus said to him, “Good for you. You are not far from the kingdom.” He is right here! It is just a matter of us seeing this kingdom.
Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Unless you are born again, unless you are in that higher plane, you cannot see the kingdom of God.” It is not that our physical eyes cannot reach the location of a certain kingdom where Jesus physically sits. Psalm 40 says, “My iniquities have overtaken me so that I am not able to see.” The kingdom of God is here, just as He said. He is seated at the right hand of God with all power, authority and dominion, and this age and the age to come. Jesus is reigning right now. We don’t see this because what we see is the speck of our brother, his weakness, the corruption in our government, but Jesus, right now and in the age to come, is reigning. It is matter of us reigning with Him.
To think that Jesus is absent and will just one day return, and on His return will begin His reign is not right. Jesus is reigning right now. It is a matter of us thinking that He is here so that we will reign in His dominion. The Ascension is the exaltation of Jesus to God’s right hand and Him filling all things everywhere with Himself. In doing so, anything that Jesus fills is sanctified. When He stepped into the water of Jordan, the water was sanctified. Jesus is in our hearts; residing in us. If Christ is in us, He will never leave us. We change status from the old creation to the new creation because Jesus’ presence in us sanctifies and renews our temple. He does this until the restoration and the sanctification of all things.
This is something we look forward to, not an escape. Everything that we see, everything that we think is evil will be restored and sanctified because Jesus will not stop until the restoration of all things happens. In the song “Jesus is Our Redeemer” it says, “Thank You, O my Father, for giving us Your Son, and leaving Your spirit until the work on earth is done.” He will not leave us until the work is done. The work is the restoration of all things. God is in the business of repairing, not discarding. We are too precious in His sight to be discarded. It is not about His absence, but His presence that is filling. He is more fully available and accessible now.
Jesus was the second Person of the Trinity, and He chose to limit Himself in the human body. He was non-omnipresent for thirty-three years, but became omnipresent when He left. He couldn’t be with Lazarus at the time of his death because He couldn’t be in two places at one time. When He ascended, mystically, miraculously, He became omnipresent being with us until the end of the age. We don’t know how because it is a mystery, and we can’t explain it. He is more ever present now, more accessible. Now, we can come to Him and be comforted. He saturates the whole cosmos, being called the Cosmic Christ, with His presence. He sanctifies all. We sing, “Christ above me; Christ behind me; Christ in front of me; Christ around me; Christ within me.” He saturates us with His presence and restores us and makes us new. It may take time, but He will not pull back for that which He has started in us, He will be faithful to complete.
Jesus is seated at the right hand with God. We are still physically in this world because Jesus sent us into this world, but we walk according to the standards of that higher one, higher plane, which is the kingdom of God where Jesus is – far above all rule and authority, of temptation, of sin. This is our calling. We don’t have to be under these things anymore because we are sitted at the right hand of God with Jesus. St. Paul says in Colossian 3:1, “Since you have been raised with Christ, live on high, not on ground.” We don’t have to go back to our vomit. Some Christians would say, “Do I have to live in that standard? Do I have to be like Jesus?” My question is: do you have to be again under the slavery of sin when we have been delivered and released by Jesus? In the parable of the vineyard, Jesus raises us up so that we can bear fruit and we can be like Him, all created in a higher plane – the plane of righteousness, the plane of godliness. Not of sin, not of defeat, not of darkness, but being like Him.
We participate in this work. We don’t help God. God is self-sufficient. He doesn’t say to give our offerings because we need to fund God’s kingdom. Why does He encourage us to pray and to give? This is because He wants us to participate in His work so that we will discover the joy of being like Him – a giver of self, of resources, of time, and ourselves. When we discover the joy of these, we have His joy in us, and we become like Him, and so we glorify Him and we please Him. We enter into the joy of our Master. We will get there, but in the meantime, we are sent into the world so that we can show the world His nature in this kingdom and declare it to Him.
We are witnesses in Jerusalem, Samaria, and other parts of the world, but we are not of it. This is why we shouldn’t be deceived by the god of this world. We shouldn’t be conformed to this world, but be transformed to the thinking, to the culture of the kingdom above. Psalm 1 says, “We shouldn’t be sitting with the ungodly. We shouldn’t be listening to their concept, instead, we should be delighting in the law and the ways of the Lord, in the ways of the kingdom where Jesus is ruling and reigning.”
We prayed in the Collect, “You have exalted Your only Son Jesus Christ … send us Your Holy Spirit to exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before.” In our Preface it says, “The Lord Jesus has ascended … and passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us but to be our hope … where He has gone we hope to follow.” Where Jesus has ascended is not a place but a high standard of Christian living and righteousness. We are on our way to being perfected. This is what Ascension did. This is our calling. This is how we reign with Him and please Him, and this is the way it is in the kingdom of our God.