God mounts his throne to shouts of joy, a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
Ephesians 1: 17-23 He made Jesus to sit at his right hand.
Matthew 28: 16-20 All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
When we farewell each other we usually say what’s deepest in our hearts, or whatever it is we’ve neglected to say to each other up until now.
In this final moment of Jesus’ face-to-face ministry with his disciples, we see yet one last reminder that Jesus’ whole purpose was to reveal the love of the Father for all peoples.
His last act is to return to the Father, and in so doing completes the mission the Father gave him. As we mark this moment in the gospels, let’s reflect on the love that he unveils for us and the love which he offers to us all, and the love that he then asks us to share as far and wide as we can.
Just to stop and muse for a moment on what the love of God is a bit like, is to be caught up into a world that hardly seems real.
How could there possibly be a love with no strings attached, with no expectations, with no demands, with no conditions. How can there be a such a love when in our world conditions, strings, expectations, demands are the normal and expected currency?!
According to our deep scriptural tradition, all the way from Isaiah through to the wonderful parables in Matthew and Luke, we meet with a God of radical hospitality and unconditional love.
This love sets no conditions, and is not based on rights and obligations, is not constrained by any other force, fear of rejection or ridicule, but is pure gift.
This love is born of profound acceptance and respect. It cannot be earned, bought or bargained for. It is simply given.
It is this love alone that can change hearts. Our poets and song-writers and philosophers have been telling us that for aeons, but we fail to hear and believe.
It is love alone that will bring a conversion sufficient enough to make a different world emerge. Fear may bring a certain conformity, but only love changes the heart.
Love does not wait for the right conditions in order to swing into action. In times of joy, suffering, doubt, war, drought, in all our times where things are at best incomplete, love simply is.
Love does not wait to be invited in, but rather is already present within and among us if we only dare step back and recognize that she is there already.
Love does not expect to given applause or recognition before offering her gift. There is no need for love’s ego to be fed or satisfied, for love takes no account of her own needs.
Love simply is.
This gift is available to us in every moment. God’s gracious tender unconditional love is our heritage, and when we are preoccupied with our suffering, pain and needs we can easily miss seeing or tasting this gift.
This gift is ours to offer to each other and to all who cross our path. It belongs to everyone. Everyone has a claim on this love. No one is excluded from it - no one.......and yet....
“Through Jesus Christ, God intends to engage in some fashion with every person.” Pope John Paul 2
Our world is awash with the poor, the lonely, the desperate, the rejected, the addicted, the powerful seeking their own ends, just as much as ever.
This gift of love has been available to us since time began and yet we still cannot believe that it is a possibility for us and so in our world still, people feel rejected by governments, churches, families, partners.
People are denied their basic rights by virtue of the wealth that is locked up in investments and share markets.
People are denied access to this love by religious rules that exclude, that lack the compassion and flexibility to deal with people’s reality.
People are denied access to this love by the small print which says
: “We don’t know you;”
“You don’t fit into our world view, or our religious, political or cultural perspective;”
“To save ourselves dealing with you we will give you a number instead of a name;”
“We will give you a label instead of a face so we don’t have to deal with or engage with you - you are simply too much trouble.”
What we are often really saying is that “we are too self-absorbed or too frightened to engage with you with love. If we dare let it loose, it may call us to change, to let go, to move to places where we have not dared go before.”
And through all our struggles to set love free, love simply waits, sometimes with a troubled face, and sometimes with an aching heart, for her chance to break through.
Love will not rest till all hearts have been welcomed into her embrace. This is at the heart of Jesus’ promise to his disciples as he farewells them at the time of his return to the Father on the first Ascension day.