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. So Jesus is speaking of a day in the future when his disciples could go directly to God the Father and ask for their needs in Jesus’ name. That would be possible because Jesus has redeemed fallen humanity, and brought us back to the Father, cleansed of our iniquity. But as they hear it, they had to be confused and maybe even a little brokenhearted at the idea of Jesus leaving them.
But Jesus did have to leave them, because the truth of it is that nothing will happen with the fledgling Church until he does return to heaven. 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 has indeed come into the world, and 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. On this eve of the Ascension, we are yet again on the edge of our seats, longing for the fullness of salvation. But even our waiting is glory for God: what we do here on earth, what we suffer in our lives, all that we celebrate — all this will bear fruit for the glory of God.