One day a father decided to take his nine-year-old son Charlie with him to the office where he worked in downtown New York City. They took the train in from the suburbs, and the father traced the route they were taking on a map. He told Charlie how they’d transfer to a different train at Delaney Street, then go through a long, dark tunnel, and he explained that the train would skip certain stops during the midday rush hour. They arrived at the office, and Charlie spent the morning meeting his father’s co-workers, watching everyone work, and touring the building. It was an enjoyable morning, but just before noon his dad surprised him by saying, “Okay, Charlie, it’s time for you to go home.” The boy was terrified by the idea of riding the train home alone, but his father walked him to the train station and said, “You’ll be fine, Charlie; just follow the directions I gave you earlier.”
Charlie was nervous but also excited. At first he worried when the train skipped certain stops, but then remembered his father had said this would happen. The long, dark tunnel was a little frightening, but Charlie survived; he almost missed his transfer at Delaney Street, but got off just in time. After that the streets became familiar, and Charlie’s confidence grew—and a short while later he was very pleased and proud at having made it all the way home by himself. What he didn’t know was that his father was riding in the next car of the train, watching over him just in case he needed help (Link, Illustrated Sunday Homilies, Year A, Series II, pp. 43-44). Jesus’ final words in the Gospel for the Ascension are “I am with you always, until the end of the age.” After giving the apostles this reassurance, He ascended to Heaven, and was no longer visible to them. The angels who then appeared to the apostles promised Jesus would return from Heaven, just as He ascended to there. We’re still waiting for this to occur, but in the meantime Christ is with us, even though we can’t see Him; He’s watching over us from above, just as Charlie was being secretly protected by his dad. Jesus’ Spirit lives in the Church and in our hearts; He guides us, strengthens us, and protects us. Our Lord returned to Heaven not to rest from His labors or go off by Himself, but to prepare a home for us and to give us the chance to grow in our faith by putting it into practice. He is watching over us, and He asks us to trust in Him, to do what is right, and to follow in His ways.
At the end of the forty day period following Our Lord’s Resurrection, the apostles were curious whether He was about to restore the kingdom of Israel—which was their way of referring to the end of the world and the complete establishment of the Kingdom of Heaven. Jesus told them it wasn’t for them to know God’s plan in advance; they were to wait patiently in faith while fulfilling their mission of preaching the Gospel. St. Paul prays that God may give us “a Spirit of wisdom and revelation, resulting in knowledge of Him.” This gift of wisdom isn’t intended for us to figure out or predict when the world will end, but instead to recognize and remember three very important things: first, every human being—even the unborn—is of infinite value, and his or her rights and dignity must be protected; second, each of us has a very important role to play in the unfolding of God’s plan of salvation, and our own spiritual well-being requires us to try to answer His call; and third, as long as our hearts are open, we are never alone, for Jesus is always with us—through the Eucharist, through His presence in the Church, and through the gentle yet powerful saving activity of His Holy Spirit. Someone once wrote a poem about Jesus which says:
Lonely? No, not lonely, with Jesus standing by;
His presence always cheers me, I know that He is nigh.
Friendless? No, not friendless, since Jesus is my Friend;
I change, but He remains true, faithful [to] the end.
Saddened? No, not saddened, by scenes of deepest woe;
I should be if I knew not that Jesus loves me so.
Tired? No, not tired, while leaning on His breast;
My soul has full enjoyment of His eternal rest.
Charlotte S. C. Panton (Knight’s Master Book of 4000 Illustrations, p. 328)
Our faith teaches us that we have no reason to feel spiritually lonely, friendless, saddened, or tired if our hearts are truly open to Jesus Christ, for as our loving Savior, He never abandons or disappoints those who trust in Him. Moreover, He gives us the guidance and strength to accomplish our mission in life, whatever it may be. Just as the angels gently rebuked the apostles for staring up at the sky after the Ascension, so the Lord wants us to keep busy living out our faith each day—secure in the knowledge that even when we can’t see Him, He is with us, watching over, protecting, and helping us at every moment on our journey home.