The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord “The Lie of the Clock Maker God” PDF Version
Homily for the Solemnity of the Ascension, Year B (2018)
During the time of the Enlightenment, it became popular to speak of God as the master clock builder. Philosophers who sought to remove themselves from the teaching authority of the Church began to propose that while God did exist, he was a distant and indifferent God who long ago created the universe, much like a clock maker assembles a clock with all its necessary parts. Once the universe was created, God simply set it in motion and then retreated into His high heaven to leave the universe and humanity to their own devices. If you will, the greatest clock had been created, wound up and left to tick tock into an unknown future, perhaps going on for all eternity or one day ticking its last and bringing the universe and humanity to crashing end.
This idea of a clock maker God who created all things and then left the universe and humanity to their own destinies remains popular among many in our day and age. Those who claim to be agnostics, holding to some faint belief that there might be a God but who plays no role in the unfolding of history, has allowed many to escape answering the question of if God exists or not and allows people to carry on with life, thinking little of eternity with God and with a concreted effort to not forge a personal and communal relationship with the Lord of heaven and earth.
Some Christians even fall into this error of a distant clock maker God, saying that yes they believe in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit but spend little to no time speaking with the Lord and considering in what ways God is active and present in their lives.
The real God, the one Christians proclaim to be active and present in both heaven and earth, is the Lord of History and has never once ceased to sustain His creation and has been intimately involved in the affairs of humanity. He is a God that is always seeking to reveal His face to those who desire to look upon His glory, affirming us we are not alone and are loved beyond our comprehension.
One way that Christians have sought to explain the unfolding of history is by dividing it into three eras. The First was the era of God the Father. This encompasses the time since the moment of creation countless years ago, to the entire story we call the Old Testament, until the moment that Jesus Christ became flesh in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
The moment of the Incarnation began the second era of history, the era of God the Son. This era continued until the moment of Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. While the Gospels tell us little of this epoch ending moment of salvation history, saying only that He ascended into heaven in the company of angels and upon a cloud, which the Jewish people understood to be a sign of some heavenly event taking place, Our Lord’s Ascension is pivotal to our understanding of our salvation in Christ.
The Ascension consoles us that the mission of Jesus Christ to save the world from sin and death was not vain. Jesus accomplished what He had set out to do; to restore our identity of being Children of God, destined for eternal life with God the Father, and co-heirs to the Kingdom to which Jesus has now returned. By ascending to the Right Hand of the Father, Christ showed His disciples and each of us that we are to keep our eyes fixed on the life that is to come.
Had Christ not ascended into Heaven, our hope for eternal life with Him would wane and even be forgotten, causing us to think this life is all that matters and all that is, when what we experience in this life, in all that is good and true and beautiful, is just a small taste of what awaits us in the Kingdom that Christ ascended into by His own divine power.
But Our Lord’s Ascension is also necessary for our ongoing salvation in Him because in bringing an end to the era of God the Son, it allowed for the coming of the Third age of history, of both humanity and all created reality, the era of God the Holy Spirit.
As hard as it was for the Apostles and first followers of Christ to comprehend, it was and is infinitely better that He departed from their company to ascended above, so that the New Advocate could take His place and lead us into a deeper and more refined understanding of all that Christ taught us in both His words and deeds.
Each of us now lives in this era of God the Holy Spirit, abiding in His wisdom and love until that day that this era too will come an end and Christ will return in glory to bring about the 4thand final era of history. This will be the end of all things where a new heaven and new earth will appear in what is called in the Book of Revelation the Wedding Feast of the Lamb, when Christ will unite Himself to us forevermore, wiping away every tear and showing us our eternal homeland of a fair green country unto a swift sunrise.
To live in this era of God the Holy Spirit is to be sure that we to cultivate a lasting friendship with the Spirit of the Lord, asking for Him to guide us everyday of our lives and being attentive to the ways He is prompting us to bring the Good News of Jesus Christ to our families, friends, co-workers, and those who unexpectedly enter into our lives.
With Pentecost taking place next Sunday, we can spend this coming week thinking about just how present the Holy Spirit is in our lives of faith. Christ ascended into heaven so that this Counsellor and Guide could enter into each of our hearts.
Is the Holy Spirit the font of wisdom and understanding who guides our Christian lives or is He the great stranger of our soul, akin to the lie of a clock maker God who made us but is absent in our hearts? This coming week is one where we can invite the Holy Spirit to no longer be a stranger but a welcomed guest of the heart and soul.