by Ken Rolheiser
Temptation, rainbows and the new Ascension

In John 21 we hear Jesus ask Peter three times, “Do you love me?” Peter confesses that he loves Jesus even though he has betrayed him three times. Jesus can work with that. And that fills us with hope.

When the sun shines through a dark and gloomy rain cloud we get a rainbow. In similar fashion, when artisans add impurities like metallic salts to glass, we get rich colors and stained-glass beauty. In much the same manner God’s grace shines through our weaknesses and produces strength to go on in the light of hope.

The good news is that Jesus turns our stains into beauty with the light of grace. God can recognize the success in our failures. We see just the times we fail. We do not see the progress we have made through the many struggles we face in our lives. 

I have a plaque with the image of a drunk crawling toward a lamp post. The German caption says: “No one sees the thirst I have, but everyone can see when I am drunk.” God sees our thirst, and he sees our desire to do better. And He can work with that.

At the funeral of St John Paul II Cardinal Ratzinger, future Pope Benedict XVI, reflected on the vocation of Pope John Paul II. Just as Jesus had said to Peter, “Follow me,” young Karol Wojtyla the future pope, was called to follow and serve.

The young student Karol loved literature, theatre and poetry, but he was surrounded by the gloom of the chemical plant where he worked and the Nazi terrors of then Poland. But God’s calling was clear, as we see in the writings of the later pope.

Karol reflected on “You did not choose me, but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last," (John 15:16). A second saying follows: "The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep," (John 10:11), and then: "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love." (John 15:9). 

These saying guided the future pope’s untiring efforts to serve his Lord. A title to one of his later books reads: "Rise, Let us be on our Way!" These are the words that can inspire us to rise to the challenge of our after Easter resurrection – the challenge of a new Ascension.

Jesus has risen! We struggle with that joy in our sinful world that includes the shadow of war’s inhumanity to man. It is not easy to see the light of grace working through that gloom and creating a stained-glass beauty. But God can work with it and through us.

Christ has risen! And that is our victory over death, and it will be our ascension to immortality. To recognize the good news in this hope 
enlivens us to Arise, Let us be on our Way.

Just as Peter was challenged by the risen Lord to “Feed my lambs”, the challenge goes to us to serve in building that new heaven and new earth where the Kingdom of God will reign and triumph, “The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I will create, for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.” (Isaiah 65:18-19).

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