We find Jesus in a concrete way in the Church Print
Bishop Morlino's Column
Written by Bishop Robert C. Morlino   
Thursday, May. 20, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

I hope each of you enjoyed a very blessed Feast of the Ascension this past weekend, and with you I continue to look forward to the Feast of Pentecost! I noted last week that we, as a Church, are already turned in our hearts and in our minds toward Pentecost and, certainly, with the Ascension of the Lord, we become even more alert in our anticipation of the descent of the Holy Spirit.

As we look at St. Luke’s description of the Ascension, we notice that, interestingly, the “two men clothed in white” who appeared to the apostles after Jesus ascended say to them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here, staring up into the heavens? This Jesus, whom you see, going up into heaven will return the same way as you just saw Him go into the heavens.” What does it mean that Jesus will return “in the same way?”

When Jesus comes again in glory, we don’t know what it will look like. But, it won’t look like Jesus “going up,” it will either look like Jesus “coming down” or like we are “going up.” So if it does not mean that the appearance will be the same, what does it mean that Jesus will return here “in the same way”? It means that Jesus will return in a way that is just as real. It will be the same in its concrete reality.

Remember that after the Resurrection, Jesus walked and talked with his apostles; He was with them for breakfast and ate the fish; He said to Thomas, “put your hands here in my side and into my hands,” and see that I am real. Jesus was real in His risen body and He is real ascending up into heaven. He is very concrete and real.

A ‘vision’ that could be touched

Those who saw the Ascension were not seeing some kind of a “vision” that you couldn’t touch. The risen body of Jesus, which could be touched, was being taken up into heaven, to sit at the right hand of the Father. It was very real. It was not an imaginary event and it was not some sort of a vision.

St. Luke, in his Gospel this past week, says that in the same way the apostles really witnessed Jesus’ Ascension, they will really be “clothed with power from on high.” Jesus came back, very concretely, just as the apostles saw Him go. When Jesus entered our world and our humanity, the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, His mother, and Jesus took flesh in her womb. When Jesus returns again, at Pentecost, what happens? The Holy Spirit overshadows Mary once again, together with the apostles, and they are all clothed with power from on high. And the Church — the concrete, real Church — is born.

Just as we could see and touch Jesus in His risen body, He returns to us in the same real, concrete way in the Church. Even with all of our sinfulness, Jesus is present — as He chooses to be present. And once again at Pentecost the Holy Spirit overshadows Mary and the apostles and Jesus takes flesh in his Body, the Church — real and concrete. So, the place where Jesus is to be found in this world is, above all, in our Church — concrete and real.

Mary, ‘a vocation to holiness’

Yes, in being fleshed out with our humanity, there is sinfulness, but there is also the magnificent vocation to holiness which we see exemplified in Mary, the Mother of the Church, the Model of the Church, the perfect disciple, the greatest human being who ever lived.

The Church is the real, concrete place in which Jesus came again according to St. Luke — and we celebrate that again this Sunday at Pentecost. That is the “coming again” that is just as real as Jesus’ Ascension. And in that sense Jesus comes again just as concretely and just as real as we saw Him go, through the Church, through the Body of Christ, through all of God’s people, with the apostles and Peter, in communion with the bishops and the Holy Father. That is where the Church is to be found, really and concretely, and through the Church, where Christ is to be found. If one wants to find the presence of Christ intensely, one has to look to our Church. That’s where He is the way He wants to be, concretely and really, even if that reality is marred by our sinfulness and by our imperfections.

And that reminds us that we also want to pray again this week for all of our dear young friends who in these weeks are receiving Jesus in Holy Communion for the very first time. These great young women and men who receive their First Communion are caught up in the life of the Church in a new way. When they receive Jesus, they are like the tabernacle, where we place Jesus after Communion. We are each called to be a holy tabernacle for Jesus Christ. We are each called to be a new ark of the covenant. And when our young people become a tabernacle for the very first time, they are also brought into deep communion with the Body of Christ, the Church.

When the priest says, “the Body of Christ,” and you respond, “Amen!” you are saying, “yes, this is the Body of Christ, and for some moments, I’m going to be a special tabernacle of the Body of Christ.” When you say, “Amen,” you are saying “yes” to the Church, that concrete reality — which is the way Jesus chooses to be present to the world today. What a blessing that is! To all of you young ladies and gentlemen I repeat that we are all so very proud of you, we congratulate you, and most important of all we pray for you and with you!

And let us all remember how we are called to find Jesus Christ in a real, concrete way, through the Church, and let us remember that we, as parts of Christ’s Body, are called to be holy tabernacles of Christ through His Holy Spirit. Thank you for taking the time to read this! God love you and yours! Christ is Risen! Praised be Jesus Christ!