The Ascension of the Lord!

My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus Christ,

Welcome to this week’s Bishop’s Blog!
Lost to the world, but not to those who have Faith! Jesus, forty days after His Resurrection, ascended to His Father, and to our Father, taken from our sight, but not from the eyes of the Faithful. As a child I learnt to value this moment in the life of my Lord, primarily because we got a day off school not shared by other schools in the town. It was good to be a Catholic! It still is. These fifty days of Eastertide more than balance the rigours of Lent’s forty days. They are more than a time to look back in reflection on the Resurrection of Christ. It’s more than getting through the crisis of Holy Week, back to ‘life restored’, back to where we were. That won’t do; that’s simply not enough. Something has changed. Something has been changed. There is to be a ‘new normal’. It’s food for thought as we look to the relaxing of the lockdown. Life won’t return to what it was. We are living in a period of world history never to be forgotten. It leaves us all different. Life will be different. Brexit dominated the news from 2016 until early this year. The pandemic has dominated our lives since February. The damaged economy will increasingly dominate our personal, national and global news for a long time to come. We know all too well that some have been affected more than others, and there is more to come, the exact nature of the effect is as yet unknown. It is all too easy to relegate Our Blessed Lord’s Ascension to being some sort of side issue, but it is not; it is critically relevant, not just for people of Faith, but for all. Faith invites us to remember, or to know for the first time, that life has a purpose, a direction because it has a destination given by God. St.Paul tells us, ‘For us, our homeland is in heaven’. The modern world has forgotten that, or lost sight of it. Sadly, for many there is nothing beyond this life. If this world is all there is there is something rather desperate about life. We can talk of progress and development, but what are we progressing towards? How are we to know what development should aim at if we are free to continually change and re-choose our targets? We can rightly be criticised for being indifferent to the problems of life because ‘everything will be fine in heaven’. But belief in the life of the world to come does not give us a dispensation to be careless about the life we are called to live here and now. We do not be-little the supreme efforts of those who put their own lives on the line to care for others. When lives are lost it is not principally because someone has failed and must for ever live with that guilt. Divine Love does not know such limits.Jesus, after forty days risen, returns to His Father, to the one who sent Him. What a joy to reflect on any child being re-united with a parent after a long, difficult separation. In one sense Christ’s work was achieved in His Passion. On the Cross He said, ‘It is accomplished’. Then He made it clear that He still had work to do for us. Two tasks stand out and should be taken to heart because they give us new heart.Firstly, He said He would go and prepare a place for us, ‘so that where I am you may be too’. Knowing there is a place prepared for us is a comfort, but we may easily doubt our chances of making it. Then we can remember His second task, that of accompanying us on the journey to that place, ‘Know that I am with you always, yes, to the end of time’. ‘I will return and take you with me, so that where I am you may be too.’

With such thought as these, let us comfort one another.
May God bless you all.

Paul Swarbrick

Bishop of Lancaster