"I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do" (John 17:4). Had Christ, has Christ really accomplished his work? Was he not only just beginning it? After nearly 2000 years Christians are still practically beginners in the recognition and realization of his message of the kingdom of God, his message of love, forgiveness, salvation… not to mention the many persons who reject this message as foolishness.
Wouldn't it have been smarter for Christ to have remained on earth after his resurrection? Then we wouldn't have the problems in the Church that arise from human weaknesses and failings. The Church wouldn't have to be led by bishops and popes who also make mistakes. There wouldn't be as many people who follow erroneous paths. If Christ had remained, had continued to work wonders, thus clearly demonstrating his divinity, there wouldn't be problems with disbelief and lack of orientation. Christ could have accomplished everything so much better, if he had only remained with us… so we could think to ourselves. So did Christ's disciples perhaps think. “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
But would it really have been so? What would the Church and the world really look like, if Christ had remained visibly with us? The place where one could meet Christ would be a pilgrimage site like none other, like Jerusalem, Rome, and Mecca packed into one. Every Christian would dream of meeting Christ, of being privileged to speak with him, to make a confession to him, to ask him what is God like, ask him about his vocation, etc…. But there would not be enough time for this. Even if each person only had a single second with Christ, it wouldn't be possible for every person to get a chance once in his life. Only privileged persons, who could afford the journey, would be able to meet him. Or it would be organized so the poorest persons, or the greatest criminals, or something of the kind, could meet. But at any rate, not everyone would be able to.
Christ disperses all such visions, such ways of imagining God's presence among us! His glory is not here or there. It is a glory that surpasses time and place, a glory he had with God “before the world was made” (Joh 17:5). When we are united with a person by love, and have to depart from him, this means a separation. Our thoughts remain with the beloved, but we ourselves are distant from him. With Christ it is different. He entered the glory of the Father, a love that is pure reality. For “God is love” (1 Joh 4:16) as John never tires of repeating. His departure into glory in fact means that he is really, continuously with us.
Christ ventures still another step, that we would never have thought up ourselves. In his prayer he asks the Father, and declares, that he is glorified in us! In seeking the presence, the glory of God we must not only not look to a particular place such as Jerusalem or Rome, we must also not look merely to the beyond, e.g., heaven. The eternal life that Christ gives us is not somewhere over there. It is here! It is now! Certainly it is very important, and a comfort to believe that there is a life after death, a life that has no end. But just any kind of life that were to go on without end would probably become at some point boring, tiring, even unbearable. The essential point is this: Christ gives us a life that is totally worth living, without ifs or buts.
Let us value this life! Let us live it! And like Christ's disciples after his Ascension, let us pray for the Holy Spirit, that he make this life blossom in us, that our joy in life as Christians become ever more visible, so that we too become radiant witnesses of Christ's resurrection.