The Seventh Sunday of Easter E. Bevan Stanley
May 16, 2021
Acts 1:15-17, 21-26
1 John 5:9-13
In the Name of the one, holy, and undivided Trinity. Amen.
I am not going to talk about the readings for today. Instead, I invite you to think about the Ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God. The reason we need to do this is that next week is Pentecost, and the Ascension is a necessary prelude. Unfortunately, the liturgical rules of the Church do not allow me to move the readings from Ascension Day, which was last Thursday, to today.
Why is the Ascension so important? Consider the sequence of events laid out by the New Testament writings: Jesus dies on Good Friday. He is raised from the dead on Easter. Then he appears to various groups of people over the course of forty days. Then the eleven remaining apostles see him go to heaven. Then ten days later on the Jewish feast of the first fruits or Pentecost, the Holy Spirit is poured out on the disciples with flames and wind. Without the Ascension, Jesus would still be wandering around among us. Jesus would still have to be in one place at a time and never in two places at once. Also, the transfer from Jesus to us of the mission of proclaiming the good news of God’s love and building God’s kingdom on earth could not have been completed. This is one point that does appear in today’s readings in the Gospel. Jesus says to the Father, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” On Easter Day, Jesus says to the disciples, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
The Ascension is an essential part of the story of Jesus. The second Person of the Trinity is with God the Father and the Holy Spirit from before time. They are outside of time and they are together the creator of the world. The Second Person chooses to become a human being and starts his human life in the womb of Mary. He is born, grows to adulthood, and becomes aware of how much God loves him and all humanity. He yearns for all people to experience the intimacy that he has with God, whom he calls God “Daddy.” He tries to get people to understand that God’s love of all of humanity has the power to help us in every difficulty. In the end he dies as every mortal must. Then he returns to heaven and the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in all those who desire it and to empower all who desire so to work on building the Kingdom of God and sharing the good news of God’s love with everyone else.
Recently, it has become fashionable to speak of the “Cosmic Christ.” This is to supplement the idea of the human Jesus and to remind us that the Christ has been around as long as God has existed, and is God, and is not bound by time and space.
Richard Rohr is a Franciscan monk who is well know for his writings about mysticism and prayer. He has a daily meditation or blog to which I subscribe. He usually spends a week on a topic. Here is part of what he has to say about the Cosmic Christ:
The first and cosmic incarnation of the Eternal Christ, the perfect co-inherence of matter and Spirit (Ephesians 1:3-11), happened at the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago. Christians believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the human incarnation of that same Mystery a mere 2,000 years ago, when we were perhaps ready for this revelation. Christ is not Jesus’ last name, but the title of his historical and cosmic purpose. Jesus presents himself as the “Anointed” or Christened One who was human and divine united in one human body—as our model and exemplar. . . Christ is our shortcut word for “The Body of God” or “God materialized.” This Christ is much bigger and older than either Jesus of Nazareth or the Christian religion, because the Christ is whenever the material and the divine co-exist—which is always and everywhere.
Then Rohr quotes Ilia Delio who writes, “The conventional visualization of the physical world was changed by Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which showed that matter itself was a form of energy. . . . For all practical purposes, energy is the ‘real world.” Rohr comments, “There it is: science revealing that everything is both matter and energy/spirit co-inhering as one; this is a Christocentric world. This realization changes everything. Matter has become a holy thing and the material world is the place where we can comfortably worship God just by walking on matter, by loving it, by respecting it. The Christ is God’s active power inside of the physical world.
Rohr quotes Delio again: “Through his penetrating view of the universe Teilhard [de Chardin] found Christ present in the entire cosmos, from the least particle of matter to the convergent human community. ‘The Incarnation,’ [Teilhard] declared, ‘is a making new . . . of all the universe’s forces and powers.’ Personal divine love is invested organically with all of creation, in the heart of matter, unifying the world.”
Another way of saying the same thing is to say that the universe is essentially and necessarily a sacrament. It is an outward and visible sign of God’s love. The spiritual realm and the physical realm are not separate but intertwined. The co-inhere. To us a technical theological term, they are mushed together. Every breath you take is God the Holy Spirit. The bonds that hold the nuclei of atoms together, and the bonds that hold atoms together in molecules are manifestations of God’s love just as much as the love of a mother for her child. We walk in beauty and in love all of the time and do not notice. For all our frailty both physical and emotional, we are incarnations of God. Our cells and molecules and atoms are all made up of God’s love.
So are those of everyone who differs from us in appearance or opinion. So is everyone who frightens us or annoys us. So is everyone with whom we do business or whom we ignore.
This sermon can have no end, so I will simply stop. Jesus has gone to heaven so that God can be in us and among us. In the Gospel of John we hear over and over that God abides in us and we abide in God. That is what life is about. That is the Good News of Jesus Christ.
 Ilia Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being: God, Evolution, and the Power of Love (Orbis Books: 2013), 24-25.
 Delio, The Unbearable Wholeness of Being, 127.