And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.

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“And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

We celebrated the Feast of the Ascension this past Thursday, and in its gospel, we heard about the events surrounding the last times the disciples saw Jesus. With their physical eyes, that is. It must have been frightening for them – Jesus told them to teach others the Way, and they felt unprepared. I imagine they wondered how dangerous this would be, given the nation’s political situation, or perhaps they simply didn’t feel they were able to do it without Jesus’ leadership. Maybe they asked themselves if they should risk their lives and those of others to follow Him? Doubts, doubts…

We know, of course, that they eventually did as Jesus asked. Some were martyred: Peter, Stephen, and James, among others. Many more followers of the Way joined them during those first centuries. In today’s society, we might not face such hard realities. At least not in the United States. It wasn’t so long ago, however, when Christians, even in supposedly Christian “civilized” lands were imprisoned and martyred for their faith. Think of Pere Jacques Brunel – who was considered a criminal for saving Jewish children during WWII – and Edith Stein, a Carmelite nun who, along with her sister, Rosa, was executed by the Nazi regime. They, like the disciples of Jesus in antiquity, didn’t see Jesus with their physical eyes. They saw Him with the eyes of faith.

In our superficial and often excessively rational world, we might ask, is faith scientific, is it real? In today’s studies of neuroscience we’ve learned that prayer opens areas within us that validate faith – even visions of God. God knowledge, no matter how much unbelievers try to deny it, exists in our DNA, placed there by a Creator whose love and kindness is beyond our ability to understand. The ancients were actually very modern. When Jesus said “I am with you always,” he meant it.

Dorothy A. Hathway, CSJA