Today we’re gathered on what is, for us, the eve of the Ascension. While the reading that we have in today’s Gospel is from John’s account of the eve of the Passion, the words could well have been spoken to the Apostles on the eve of the Ascension too. Jesus speaks of leaving the world and going back to the Father, this time until he returns in glory. The Twelve had to be broken hearted all over again. They had lost their friend and Lord briefly to death, but had been encouraged by him as he appeared to them after the Ascension, and now he is preparing to leave again.
But the truth of it is that nothing will happen with the fledgling Church until he does leave. Only then will the Father send the Holy Spirit to be with the Church until the end of time, giving the early disciples and us later disciples the grace and strength to go forward and proclaim the kingdom and call the world to repentance and grace. If God’s purpose is to be advanced on this earth, then Jesus has to return to the Father. 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.
The Good News for us is that the Holy Spirit continues to work among us today, as often as we call on him. “Ask and you will receive,” Jesus says, and so we ask and receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit for the glory and praise of God. 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.