By Fr. Tony Fortman, C.PP.S.
In the Diocese of Toledo we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord today. We see Jesus ascending up into heaven in the presence of the Blessed Virgin Mary and his apostles. Jesus was lifted up and a cloud took him from their sight. In today’s gospel from Matthew we see Jesus speaking to his followers, “The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
It can be very difficult for the human spirit not to doubt. We see Jesus’ disciples doubting today. They spent three years with Christ and took in his teaching and watched his acts of healing and love. But even after his resurrection, these disciples of Christ are still doubting. Why do we doubt? Why did Thomas doubt in the Gospel of the Second Sunday of Easter?
In this world we see so many jobs change. Many of us may not feel secure in our jobs. We endured a pandemic. I never thought I would see one of those. Even our own health changes over time. There are not many constants in this life. But God is always constant and never changing. He is the one sure anchor we can hold on to. God’s love and mercy are constant. People can be fickle but Christ will always keep to his promises.
Jesus tells his followers to baptize all nations. Baptism not only takes away sins like the sacrament of reconciliation and the anointing of the sick, but it is a dying and rising into the life of Christ. In the world, we are born and then die. In baptism we first die with Christ in our submersion into the baptismal waters. Then we rise with Christ when we are taken out of the baptismal waters. This dying and rising with Christ is called the “Paschal Mystery.”
Twenty years ago during my formation period with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood (C.PP.S.), I often wondered when formation would be complete. I realized that it will never be complete. The C.PP.S. is always forming its members. But I eventually knew that formation would come to an end and I would be a lifetime member of the Community and a priest. That came with its sufferings also. Suffering doesn’t last forever. Eventually resurrection comes. On this Ascension Sunday let us draw close to Christ in his dying and rising. Let us endure our suffering but realize that suffering will not last forever. God bless you all.
Fr. Tony Fortman, C.PP.S., is the pastor of St. John the Baptist Church in Glandorf, Ohio.