Jesus said: “But you know it, because it remains with you, and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” (Jn 14:17-18)
Jesus has just promised his disciples a special gift. Jesus will not leave them. He will give them another paraclete/advocate . . . namely, his Spirit. Jesus made the same promise to me. I don’t always expect God to do that, to be right there for me. That’s a role people often grow up assigning to their guardian angels. But, to tell the truth, a lot of what folks thought was the role of guardian angels actually belongs to the Spirit. And the Spirit is not just a messenger from God – the Spirit is God.
The Spirit is always with me, protecting, helping, strengthening, supporting.
I have received that gift of the Spirit. It’s a gift that I have received through my baptism and confirmation. It’s a gift I celebrate in this Easter season. It’s a gift I celebrate throughout the year. It’s one of the reasons why we gather at the Eucharistic table – not only to celebrate the presence of the risen Christ in the Eucharist but also his ongoing presence with us every step of the way through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
“I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you.” Imagine how much that meant to the disciples. Imagine how much it should mean to me.
Today the Church celebrates the feast of the Ascension of the Lord. In Jerusalem, several churches commemorate the ascension of Jesus into heaven, as witnessed by his apostles. One of the most popular is the Chapel of the Ascension, located on top of the Mount of Olives. A Byzantine church in honor of the Ascension was constructed on this site about 390 A.D. by a Christian woman named Poimenia. The open-air church was said to contain a stone with the imprint of the footprint of Jesus. The Persians destroyed the church about 614 A.D., but it was later restored by St. Modestus of Jerusalem. Crusaders rebuilt the church about 1150. But by the end of the 12th century, the Muslim general, Saladin, had captured the church and converted it into a mosque. The chapel remains a holy site for Christians and for Muslims who also acknowledge the ascension of Jesus, and who continue to occupy the site.
* * * The walls in the courtyard of the Chapel of the Ascension are lined with hooks. Pilgrims would use the hooks to stretch tents when they came to celebrate the feast of the Ascension.