In order to grow, change and separation are essential. In his final days, Jesus says to his followers: “…I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go,” – an allusion to the Ascension. In the weeks before this statement, he had already begun to prepare them for this departure. As it sunk it, their sadness and denial grew to the point where they were no longer able to listen with an open heart. It was as if it did not matter where he was going, but that he must leave at all – that things would change. Jesus says, “But now I am going to the one who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘where are you going?'” There they remain, stuck between what their relationship had grown to be and the unknown future with Jesus’ promise to send the Spirit. What did this mean?
What does it mean for those of us who are parents to tell our children, who are comfortable with the way things are, that big changes are coming – that it will be better for you. It didn’t comfort my foster children who only knew foster care and enjoyed changing families, that being adopted meant a stable environment and that would be much better. It didn’t comfort my teenage son when we explained he would have to separate from his chosen high school because something better and healthier awaited him elsewhere. It didn’t comfort me when I finally understood that the image of God I had grown up with – one primarily external and transcendent – -needed to be broken open and transformed into an inner knowing that God’s Spirit dwells within me and throughout all of God’s creation. Separation is painful. What a daily challenge for me to see Christ not just in the pages of scripture but in the person next door and the one I work and pray beside! Saint Benedict said: “All who present themselves are to be welcomed as Christ.” (RB 53.1)
It’s of course easier or more comfortable to stay where everything is a “known”. It took our adopted children months, even years to understand how permanence is better than constant transition. They had to learn it through the passage of time. My son is still learning how a new way of doing high school is more fruitful. I still fall into my old model of “God out there” as a way of escaping my own personal responsibility of carrying God’s message. There is a lot of resistance. The disciples were really doing the same thing regarding the commissioning Jesus proclaimed. (see yesterday’s post for more on this). As we move toward Pentecost I wonder what each of us needs to change or separate from in order to grow? The clouds of the Ascension call us into that mystery.