How do you manifest Christ to the world?
When Jesus ascended, the disciples weren’t exactly ready for it: Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel, they ask him in the Acts of the Apostles, just moments before he is lifted up and taken up into heaven. The image of ascension to heaven has been prefigured in Psalm 47: God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy, the psalmist sings, calling upon all nations to shout with cries of gladness. But the disciples? They are just confused, staring open-mouthed, looking at the sky…
Both Acts and Mark’s Gospel before it make it clear: Jesus rose so that the disciples could at last understand their mission: Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. The disciples are to be Jesus’ ongoing physical presence in the world, sharing his salvation, his good news or gospel, with everyone. They are to act in his name, Jesus tells them, because everything done in his name manifests his love, that is, makes his love visible to the world. They are capable, Jesus is telling them, of extraordinary acts of love through which they will reveal Christ for who he is: God’s love incarnate.
It’s not an easy job, to be sure. Paul tells the Ephesian community that they must bear with one another through love, that they might build up the body of Christ. How? With all humility and gentleness, with patience… Paul prays that the depth of their awareness of that love might be given through the Spirit: may the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, he says. If the Ephesian community can come to appreciate all that God has done in Christ, and come to share in all Christ has left them through the Spirit, they will know the hope that belongs to his call, manifesting Jesus’ presence in the world, and building that hope for others. To be the Church we are called to be requires nothing less.
This post is based on Fr. Pat’s Scripture class.
Image source: www.wordle.net