Ascension Day Message
Thomas Aquinas, the renowned theologian, once said ‘the object of fear is a future evil that is imminent, of great magnitude, and threatening the loss of what we rightly love.’ I believe these wise words have great relevance to the recent terrible events in Manchester, where 22 people, including many young people died, and many more suffered serious injury. The bombing has created a mixture of emotions including anger, doubt, anxiety, and confusion, but above all fear. But many of the stories which have come out of Manchester have shown us that we have the potential to turn our fear to good use, because it puts us in touch with what we truly, deeply, passionately love and cherish, and by so doing can help crystallise what is truly important in our lives. For example Manchester has shown us the importance of, firstly community and neighbourliness, secondly of family, especially the future of our children, and thirdly the freedom we have in this country to go out and enjoy life, a freedom which can so easily be taken for granted. The actions of a homeless man who helped many of the victims, and of an aunt who sacrificed her life by body shielding her niece, and the commitment of many to try and continue life as normal, have touched us because they are all examples of actions which affirm what we truly, deeply, and passionately love and cherish.
Last Thursday Christians from all over the world celebrated Ascension Day, the day Jesus left his disciples and departed from them in order to ascend to heaven. These next 10 days, from Ascension until Pentecost, are unique because we reflect on a time where Jesus is not with us, whereas for the rest of the year we celebrate Jesus being with us, in us, for us. The disciples, who had felt the presence of Jesus so closely and intimately, must have felt a profound, deep sense of loss – a loss which created emptiness, doubt, anxiety and above all fear. However one of the amazing things in the Christian faith is that this deep profound loss, which created emptiness, doubt, anxiety and fear, crystallized what was really important in the lives of this rather bedraggled, frightened group of disciples, and enabled them to focus and commit the rest of their lives to what they truly, deeply and passionately believed in, leading them to transform the world around them.
As we wait for Pentecost on the 4th June we should reflect on what we truly, deeply and passionately believe in, and commit to prioritising our energy and time to affirming these in our lives. Similarly, as the election comes up on June the 8th, we should put aside personality and habit, and reflect more deeply on which parties policies affirm most what we truly, deeply, passionately believe in and cherish.