Aren’t you even gonna kiss her goodbye? This is the last poignant question which ends the 1986 cult-classic movie, Big Trouble in Little China. Now a spoiler alert: contrary to what everyone expects with a hero and heroine, Jack Burton doesn’t exactly give the traditional response. In his last conversation with Gracie, when he is asked Aren’t you even gonna kiss her goodbye?, he turns, thinks about it and says “No”, and walks out to the truck in which he saves the world, the Pork Chop Express.
We can have the impression that today Jesus has done much the same thing to the apostles – and to us. Here we are, the Risen Jesus in all his power and glory, able to solves all the world’s problems – and to our surprise, says goodbye and leaves.
It’s shocking – more so for us this week following the events in Manchester. How can Jesus just get up and leave and let things like this happen?
As usual at mass, Jesus takes our questions seriously and, in his ascension, provides the beginning of a response. We see that in three key points today.
The first is that the ascension shows that death is not the end. Like those in Manchester, Jesus was innocent, yet his body too was cruelly torn and killed. Yet for him it was not the end. Certainly he died, and those who loved him missed him. But, having trusted the Father, the Father kept his promise to him, and raising him from the dead seated him with him in eternity. The same will happen to all those who did the same, or were of good will, in Manchester. The suffering, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, what we call the Paschal Mystery, not only shows us what will happen to all those who give their life to him, but is in fact what makes it possible.
The second way the Ascension answers the question is in that of justice. We talk a lot about the importance of mercy, and rightly so, but it is important not to forget about the justice of God. I am with you always; yes to the end of time, Jesus tells us. Teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And Thou shalt not ever under any circumstances take innocent life is one of these. So people who break Jesus’ commands, and do evil will have to face Jesus, his judgement and also the consequences of their evil. And this is one of the many advantages of Christianity over radical atheism. In atheism, no matter how great the injustices done, when one dies that’s it, they can’t be punished – they got away with it. Christianity, on the other hand, has heaven and hell – not only justice, but perfect justice.
He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything. This last text also brings us to a final thing the Ascension teaches us: that putting order into the world is not only his problem. We often bellyache about the state of the world, and often with good reason – but what do we do about it? We can be tempted to be overwhelmed through the sheer weight of evil, with the idea that it’s not our fault, that it’s too hard, and that there’s nothing we can do anyway. These are ideas which come from the devil, and are forms of despair, childishness, and cowardice. They are most especially a lie: because we have what we need to change the world. That’s what Jesus says. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. In other words, Go and proclaim the Gospel to them. This is the command of Jesus – not to proselytise, but certainly to evangelise: to chase evil out of the world by shining the light of the Creator on things, by what we say and do and by being a shining example of a good Christian to others. Let us re-choose and ask God to help us be good Christians today.