Inhale before exhale
A reflection for The Ascension of the Lord, Year B
by Susan HooKong-Taylor
What an incredible forty days it must have been after Jesus’ resurrection. Imagine the gamut of emotion, the sheer stretching of the mind and heart to the point of breaking; the gutted feeling of loss, and then, the stone rolling away to this new and incredible dimension of joy and hope.
“Peace be with you,” Jesus said to them. And then, each one crossed the threshold of the empty tomb into this truth: Jesus is risen.
For forty days, they saw him. He came to them in their place of grief and hiding. They heard stories of where Jesus had appeared to others. He broke bread with them by the seashore, talked with travellers, and opened out Scripture to them. Traumatized, Thomas said, “Not until I see for myself, not until I put my hands into the wounds”…and he, too, upon seeing Jesus for himself, stepped fully into this reality: Jesus is alive.
Forty days…a number signifying transformation, after which something new springs forth. During those forty days, as it says in Acts, Jesus spoke to them about the Kingdom of God. He spoke to them as well about a new baptism in the Holy Spirit – but Jesus offers no explanation other than the comparison with John’s baptism in water. What were the side conversations among the apostles like upon hearing these things? Did they whisper to each other, “What does he mean?”
On the day when they gathered for the last time, Jesus is asked by the apostles if now is the time that He will restore the Kingdom to Israel. The question hangs in the air. What is
going to happen next?
Jesus gently turns their attention to what he had mentioned before. He gives a response, not speaking about the Kingdom per se but about the Holy Spirit: that they would receive power from on high, that they would be His witnesses.
I like to think of this period, culminating with Jesus being taken up to heaven as The Great Inhale.
This inhalation is full of anticipation and wonder; God is drawing up all things to Godself in Christ in this Ascension time. Jesus ascends to the place of perfect unity, body and blood, soul and divinity with God the Father and God the Spirit. Today, we watch in wonder at this necessary moment that must come before God breathes out and into us God’s Spirit to renew the face of the Earth: The Great Exhale.
What, then, is the Kingdom that Jesus has been talking about all along? During his preaching he said, “The Kingdom of God is at hand.” The Kingdom of God he was speaking of is not something external. It was not to be a new system of governing or the establishment of a new nation. The Kingdom of God is this: it is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in each of us. It is the restoration of our humanity as we are meant to be, with God living inside each of us through the power of the Holy Spirit. Scripture says, the Kingdom of God is justice and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. It is all the gifts, all of the wisdom, understanding, love, and possibility given to us to live in true freedom, to manifest the love of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit here and now, and into eternity.
On this Ascension Sunday, let us return to Jerusalem with the apostles to wait for the Lord. Let us wait, trusting in His word. Let us wait in great hope and anticipation for the Great Exhale of God, the breath of new life, the wind of transformation and restoration, the fire of love: the coming of the Kingdom into each of our hearts.
The readings for The Ascension of the Lord, Year B, are
Susan HooKong-Taylor is a singer/songwriter from Toronto, Canada, as well as a teacher with the Toronto Catholic School Board. She has had the privilege of writing and performing music for World Youth Day in Toronto, most notably, the Song of the Cross, which she co-wrote with Ana Da Costa. She is the Vice President for the charitable organization, Canadian Samaritans for Africa, which works to build on the assets of African women through micro-financing opportunities to support income generating activities. She was happily married to Kyle Taylor+ for 24 years, and together they have two children, Evan and Julia.