I was driving to the HEB on Williams Drive this morning to pick up an order, praying the rosary as I drove. I usually smile when I pray the mystery of the Ascension of Christ, the second Glorious mystery, because it is hard for me to believe that no one called out, “wait, don’t go yet!” as Jesus rose into the clouds. I like to imagine that I would have blurted that out and asked Jesus to stay a bit longer, if I were present on that hill. I know that it is a silly thought, that during such an unusual or even spiritual experience people don’t respond as we normally would expect. The human mind is so enthralled, so taken aback by all the sensory data present at the time, that the mind is overwhelmed – normal reactions are unlikely to occur.
Christ was incarnate and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, lived among us for 33 years, then suffered a horrible and painful death. Why did Jesus not stay here with us after the Resurrection? We are told that Jesus loved us so much that He became human to save us. I finally realized why Jesus left after completing His 33 year mission and why He didn’t continue His mission while living on this earth.
In the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve faced a test of obedience. Eden was not Heaven, which God intended to be mankind’s final destination. It might even be surmised that in protecting Eden, as Adam was supposed to do and by extension, protecting Eve, his wife, Adam might have faced death. Adam would have had to find the courage and love to give up his life to fulfill his mission. Yet we are told that Adam, though he was with Eve at the time of the temptation from an evil enemy, said nothing to her or the enemy and did not try to stop Eve from touching and eating the forbidden fruit. It is hard to believe that one of Adam’s God given attributes was cowardice – that would be unlike God, who only gives great gifts. And then to make matters worse, Adam ate the forbidden fruit as well and blamed Eve for tempting him. So now Adam and Eve and humanity’s fate was sealed – we all face death and a possible loss of Heaven.
Because God loves humanity, Jesus comes to redeem us, dies, rises from the dead, and then He leaves us. The disciples are given a mission to spread the Good News to all the earth sometime after Jesus’ Resurrection. Why didn’t Jesus just stay and complete the task of telling everyone about God’s love for us?
Could it be because mankind is still being tested? Every human being is given the same test as Adam received, even though the circumstances are different for each one of us. Will we be obedient to God’s laws as Adam and Eve were not? Will we have the courage to love God before all else, even at the risk of our own lives? The two concepts are connected – love of God and the courage to obey work together. If we love God, we respect His laws and seek to please Him by following the laws – sometimes that takes courage to fight against the “crowd” or the prevailing earthly “wisdom”. If so, then Heaven awaits us. If we do not, then the results are dire, and Heaven is not our final destination.
Happily, God gives most of us – especially me – a lot of time to figure this out, to learn to love and obey. He stands by us every time we make a mistake and walk away from Him, always encouraging us to try again. Unlike Adam, who faced only one single test, we are tested throughout our lives. As time goes by and we learn from our mistakes and failure to love, our desire to obey and love God grows. We suffer times of difficulty, but God never gives up on us. Eventually we hope, we will get it right. How many of us love with such patience as God does? Our God is truly a wonder!