Summary: How we deal with absence and presence can affect how we relate to Jesus.
Seeds for Sowing, Vol. XI, Issue 2, No. 14
Ascension of the Lord - Year C
May 20th, 2007
* Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:19-23
* Lk. 24:46-53
Absence And Presence
Separation is something that all of us must deal with, many times in our lives. All of us experience so many separations as we go through life. Some separations are temporary and some are permanent. As we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus, perhaps we could reflect for a few moments on how we are dealing with our separation from Jesus.
There are two common expressions that come to mind when we think about people going away from us. One is, "Out of sight and out of mind." And the other is, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder." These two expressions indicate at least two different ways of dealing with absence.
Out Of Sight
"Out of sight, out of mind", insists on the physical presence of the person. If, for some reason that person is not present, then we choose to forget about him or her. We don’t want to have to bother with the mental or emotional energy required to keep that person alive in our hearts. And so we make the choice to forget about them if they are not physically with us. If we take this kind of stand, then we are making the decision to allow a relationship to weaken and perhaps even die. It’s a serious decision.
And yet, we know it happens all the time. All it takes is a bit of neglect. We get lazy. Days or weeks go by and we don’t call or write. We don’t know what’s going on with them and they don’t know what’s going on with us. Then we forget to send that birthday card or make that phone call. Eventually, the times of connection become less and less. Our good intentions of keeping in touch go up in smoke. And so does the relationship.
Absence And Fondness
The other stance is summarized by the expression, "Absence makes the heart grow fonder". This second way is to use the absence of that person in order to grow in closeness with him, so to better prepare ourselves for an eventual wonderful reunion with our friend. During the time away from that person, we continue to communicate through phone calls and letters.
We try to share not only what is going on in our lives, but also what we are thinking and feeling about things. As we do so, we are often surprised that our communication is often at a deeper level than if we were physically together. We really try to share some of our inner self with that other person, and we find that we are growing closer precisely through our absence from one another.
Friendship With Jesus
In some way, these two attitudes to absence can also reflect our attitude to Jesus who is now ascended into heaven. We don’t meet Jesus walking down the street. We don’t get any phone calls or mail from him. It would be easy just to forget about him. And the truth is, many times we do. Most of us are caught up in doing so many things, that we can go for quite a time without really thinking about Jesus and our friendship with him. Terrible as it might sound, ’out of sight, out of mind’, can also apply to how we relate to Our Lord.
Perhaps we could learn a simple lesson from those thousands of people who need to cope with the absence of a loved one. We need to do whatever we can to maintain the presence of Christ in our lives even though we can’t see him or touch him.
The very first thing we need to do is to remember Jesus. I hope that’s the reason why we make such an effort to come to the Eucharist. We do this in memory of Jesus. As the community of his friends, we do what he told us to do. "Do this in memory of me". We also need to remember Jesus when we are not here.
There are many ways we can do this: prayer, spiritual reading, retreats, taking care of others, practicing gratitude, meditation and contemplation, small Christian communities or prayer groups. There are so many ways in which we can keep Jesus alive in our day to day lives. It would be a good idea to look at the ways by which we are now keeping the memory of Jesus alive. Perhaps we need to re-commit ourselves to some things we used in the past but have let slip. Or maybe we need to do something absolutely new that would help make Jesus more alive in our busy lives.