We gather here today on the eve of the Ascension. The tension is palpable; the disciples have so many more questions to ask, and they have no idea how short a time they have left to ask them. They are certainly not prepared to have the one they lost briefly to death ascend from their sight. They have been reunited with their friend and have gathered around him with a purpose; not wanting to ever be parted from him again.
And Jesus has been preparing them in the Gospel readings this week for what must come. If God’s purpose is to be advanced on this earth, then Jesus has to return to the Father. They will mourn once again for the loss of their friend. But if he does not leave them, he would not be able to send the Holy Spirit, the new Advocate to come and lead them to all truth. If the Spirit does not descend, the Church would not be born. If the Church were not born, the Gospel would be but an obscure footnote in the history of the world.
And so Jesus, their friend, prepares them for his parting. When he is gone from them, they will be able to ask the Father for whatever they need in Jesus’ name, and it will be given them. Their friendship with them will bear fruit in blessing.
The same is true of us. We disciples, we friends of Jesus, can count on his blessing, the rich gift of the Holy Spirit, the great witness of the Church. Our lives are enriched by our faith and our discipleship. What we do here on earth, what we suffer in our lives, what we celebrate — all this will bear fruit for the glory of God.