The Sunday after the Ascension
A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
“To make an end,” wrote T. S. Eliot,
“is to make a beginning,
The end is where we start from…
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
“In the beginning,” St. John tells us, “was the Word. And the Word was with God, and the Word was God…and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us.”
As we draw once again toward Pentecost, and to the climactic finale of the first half of the Church year, which began with the preparation for the coming of the Lord in Advent, we are meant to find ourselves encouraged and consoled with the assurances shared by St. Peter in today’s epistle. “The end of all things,” he writes “is at hand,”; and perhaps we find little consolation in those words, as we first hear them: surely the end bears with it a sense of dread before the prospect of impending judgment, not to mention the sudden and untimely abbreviation of all our earthly labours.
But the end is not simply the end, as we discover through our journey of discipleship; by our patient following after the Master, at last we come know Him—as St. Thomas did—as the fulfilling of all our hope, and the object of our faith: “my Lord, and my God.” And so we see how Jesus Himself is the end of all things, just as He is the beginning: “I am Alpha and Omega,” as He told St. John in the vision. We learn to find in Christ a new meaning of ‘the end’, which is essentially just this: that we have never been alone. Even in the deepest valley of our darkest sin, ‘Thou art with me, Thy rod and Thy staff, they comfort me.’ The story of our faith is not that we discover how to find God; it is rather that we find how God has always been with us. From the moment of our creation to the end of all things, our Saviour has continued patient in His real and present love for us, not only in certain moments, or certain ways, but in every moment, and in every way. His Cross and Passion, then, are the full bearing out of that love in time—’the fullness of time’, so that with His last breath He may pronounce, “it is finished”— in other words, all things are hereby accomplished. Nothing is absent from His goodness. And therefore, as we draw toward the end, we draw near to Him. The power and presence of the Holy Spirit would make all this clear: how Christ is ‘with [us] always’, and gradually, how we are to become the witnesses of this new spiritual vision. “Ye also shall bear witness,” Jesus told them, “because ye have been with me from the beginning.”
In the end is our beginning, as we come to know for the first time the fullness of what has always been true: that we are loved. From that new beginning point, St. Peter tells us, we must make our way with devotion and thanksgiving, knowing that all things are meant for us to be received and used according to the healing mercies of God: “above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins. Use hospitality one to another without grudging. As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” We are to become the ministry, the real working out and witness to this joyful and glorious reality: that by the holy mystery of the Word made flesh, we already know, and share in, the end of the story of Creation, and it is a happy ending, because it is our shared dwelling place with God: “that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.