A friend contacted me recently asking me how to deal with a feeling of distance from God and a loss of interest in going to church. Have you ever had this feeling—a feeling of being distant and disconnected from God? I know I have. In the literature on spirituality, this has been called “the dark night of the soul.” Our Gospel for this Sunday is the Ascension of Jesus—when Jesus ascends from his earthly life to sit at the right hand of God and receives his glory. Certainly, this is cause for celebration. Our reading, however, has a curious turn of expression. It speaks of how Jesus, while he was blessing the disciples, “withdrew from them.” On the one hand, this simply means he physically departed from their presence. On the other hand, we now live spiritually in the aftermath of his “withdrawing” from us: that is, our access to him has shifted from his being at hand to him being withdrawn from us. But did he completely abandon us? No! He sent the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, the Spirit of Truth, to be with us. It is now through the Holy Spirit that we gain spiritual access to God. Many Christians, however, do not know how to listen to the Spirit, do not know how to gain access to God via the Spirit, and as a result often feel as if God is far from them. This Sunday we will explore what it means to attune our spirit to God’s Spirit in the context of Jesus’s withdrawing from us.
Rom 8:26-27: Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.