Opening the Word: Distance and desire


As Catholics, we are used to thinking about God’s presence in our churches. Christ is present in the proclamation of the word, the singing assembly, in the ordained priest, in the sacramental signs of the building and most fully in the body and blood of Christ.

This presence is important to the Catholic imagination. And yet, the feast of the Ascension underlines that this presence is made possible because of distance.

The Ascension of the Lord must be understood aright. Jesus Christ is not sitting on some cloud in the heavens, doing his best to avoid air traffic. Instead, his Ascension is a departure from a certain kind of physical presence. He is not here in the same way that he was present to the disciples on the Mount of Olives on that first Ascension Thursday.

Our Lord has gone back to the Father. He did not leave behind his body as a remnant. Instead, his body exists in the very presence of the Father, entering the life of God.

Christ is the head who has ascended to the Father. And we, as the Body of Christ, are destined to ascend with him. Our vocation is to follow Christ not through the dusty streets of Jerusalem but to the right hand of the Father, to the blissful delight of seeing God face-to-face.

Christ’s distance from us is part of the very way that God has chosen to save the human family. Of course, God is always with us, dwelling among us through the power of the Spirit. But on Ascension Thursday (or Sunday for most of the United States), we acknowledge the divine pedagogy of distance.

After all, when we hear the proclaimed word, we do not see the face of Christ. Eucharistic presence is not immediately available to the senses. The body of Christ looks like bread. The blood of Christ looks like wine. As St. Thomas Aquinas notes in his Eucharistic hymnody, where the senses fail, faith alone suffices.

There is distance.

And as we have learned over this quarantine, spent away from at least some of the presences so important to Catholic life, distance allows for desire.

Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians fans the flames of this desire for us. We cannot yet see the fullness of what God has accomplished in Christ. The Word made flesh is subject now to no power! Jesus Christ, the God-man, fully human and fully divine, reigns over creation. He reigns over the Church.

It is our destiny to reign with him, to dwell alongside Our Lord, in that most blessed vision of heaven itself.

We do not have to wait for heaven to begin to see some of this blessed vision. We can hope for it. Hope is a kind of seeing. It is seeing that which is distant. We hope for an end to the quarantine, we hope for a recovery of the economy, we hope for a peace that reigns over the world.

And we hope to see our Lord face to face. We desire it! And this desire, dear friends, is what brings us into the presence of the Lord. The more we desire it, the more we see it.

In the Mass, we lift up our hearts to God. The heart is the seat of our affections, our desires, our memory, imagination, and will. It is our very self.

So on this feast of the Ascension, lift up your heart to God. Lift your whole self up, covering the distance between God and humanity through the swift flight of love.

May 24 – The Ascension of the Lord

Acts 1:1-11
Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
Eph 1:17-23
Mt 28:16-20


This article comes to you from OSV Newsweekly (Our Sunday Visitor) courtesy of your parish or diocese.


Catholic News & Perspective

Provides information on the Church, the nation and the world from OSV, America's most popular and trusted national Catholic news source


Opening the Word: Without you, nothing

Friday, May 29, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley A persistent temptation in the Christian life is to see God as nothing more than an aid to our own righteous efforts.... Read More

Dozens gather virtually to sing psalms, hymns and inspired songs

Wednesday, May 27, 2020
By: Dan Meloy PONTIAC, Mich. (CNS) — Notre Dame Preparatory High School’s choir and alumni are bringing the world a little closer... Read More

Navigating the uncharted territory of returning to Mass

Monday, May 25, 2020
By: Scott Warden Over the past month or so, once dinner has been made and eaten, the kitchen cleaned and the littlest children have been put to... Read More

Opening the Word: Distance and desire

Friday, May 22, 2020
By:  Timothy P. O'Malley As Catholics, we are used to thinking about God’s presence in our churches. Christ is present in the... Read More

Pope joins interreligious prayer, begging God to end pandemic

Wednesday, May 20, 2020
By: Cindy Wooden VATICAN CITY (CNS) — At a time of global “tragedy and suffering” because of the coronavirus, and in view of the... Read More

The pandemic has caused many to focus on what matters most: God

Monday, May 18, 2020
By: Msgr. Owen F. Campion A survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, a respected analyst of popular opinion, recently discovered that a quarter... Read More

Opening the Word:Obedience and creativity, fidelity and charism, are closely linked to one another

Friday, May 15, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley Art should be creative. This means the artist must break away from all received norms, obedient only to the creativity that... Read More

What Pope St. John Paul II might tell us during this time of pandemic

Wednesday, May 13, 2020
By: Gretchen R. Crowe On May 18, we mark the 100th birthday of St. John Paul II. Though he passed away 15 years ago this past April, the... Read More

Photographs, memories and appreciating the time of our lives

Monday, May 11, 2020
By:  Scott Warden On a narrow wall that defines our kitchen from our dining room — it might be 2 feet wide — hang three photos of... Read More

Opening the Word: The living stones of a spiritual temple

Friday, May 8, 2020
By: Timothy P. O'Malley The loss of the sacramental life during COVID-19 has been a wound for baptized Catholics. Yes, Our Lord is present in the... Read More

Online Giving

Online Giving

Secure and Convenient Donate now!