Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.
We continue to celebrate Eastertide throughout most of this month of May. This period of time that began with the Resurrection and lasts until Pentecost can be transformative when we allow ourselves to enter deeply into its meaning for us on a personal level—and for our Church as a whole. We know that Jesus walked among the Apostles after the Resurrection, and it seems He made a point of interacting with them in ways that met their own specific needs of faith, such as answering Thomas’ doubts when He appeared to him and said, “Put your finger here and see My hands, and put out your hand, and place it in My side; do not be faithless but believing.”
Just after this account in John’s gospel, we read, “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book,” so we know that other special moments occurred during that first Eastertide. We are also given a picture of a larger purpose at work in these beautiful interactions, a purpose revealed in what has come to be known as the Great Commission, when Christ said to the disciples, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.”
In these varied encounters that Christ had with the disciples after His Resurrection, we see a reflection of how He speaks to each one of us today. His interaction with Thomas demonstrates that Christ will always justify our faith. All we need to do is have the courage to continue our walk toward Him, and we will constantly be invited into a deeper understanding of God’s miraculous hand at work in the world.
And the Great Commission shows us that there is always a larger purpose beyond ourselves. Those who have faith within their hearts have been blessed abundantly by Christ, and part of that blessing we receive is the commission to reach out to others to kindle the fire of faith in the world.
Christ’s Ascension into heaven marks a high point of joy because it revealed to the Apostles the fullness of God’s plan for humanity. Up until that point, they had been experiencing fear over how the authorities would react to news of Christ’s Resurrection. The Ascension showed them that Christ had not only conquered death but had created a path for us all to enter heaven. It was a moment when the theology of the afterlife was manifested as an undeniable reality, and fear could no longer overcome their joy.
In the book of Luke, we read that, after the Ascension, the Apostles “worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” Several days later, the Holy Spirit descended upon them at Pentecost just as Christ had promised. It was at this point their lives turned completely outward to evangelize the world.
The historical reality of the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the miraculous occurrences at Pentecost are certainly confirmed by the fearlessness with which the Apostles proclaimed these things after being empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so. And this is the fearlessness we are all called to in our daily lives. We are called to let go of ourselves and take the blessings God has bestowed on us to serve others. When we do this, we walk in the footsteps of Christ and the Apostles, and we can overcome all fears with the joy that is in our hearts.
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