- The Abbey of the Genesee - https://www.geneseeabbey.org -

May 25, 2017

Fr. Stephen Muller, OCSO

Ascension Thursday
Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; Mt 28:16-20

According to fairly recent news reports, the physicist Stephen Hawking thinks we have about 100 years to make colonies on other planets before earth is destroyed. Some of the threats he sees to our present planet are global warming, nuclear war, genetically engineered viruses, artificial intelligence, and over-due asteroid strikes. He is predicting that we will develop the technology to reach other planets in other solar systems, and in that way save ourselves from extinction.

This is now 2017. Let’s fast-forward 50 years to the year 2067. And let’s say the situation on earth has deteriorated even more and now almost all scientists are saying the planet is doomed. However, the prospects of colonies on other inhabitable planets has not developed as Hawking had hoped. The future for human beings is becoming increasingly dismal and the general attitude on earth is pessimistic, fatalistic, even despairing.

Suddenly, a UFO from outer space lands and it is world-wide news. There is only one creature on board and he is able to speak our language and is being interviewed by all the major news agencies. Usually, we think of aliens as being superior to us in intellect but inferior to us in looks. But this guy looks amazingly like one of us. Who knows, where he comes from they may look different and have a different existence but he was able to put on some kind of body so he wouldn’t scare us. Everyone has theories and there is much speculation.

The guy calls himself Josh and has a very magnetic personality – people are not sure why they feel so drawn to him. Maybe it’s because of the hope he holds out to them in a world that is becoming increasingly devoid of hope. He says that where he comes from it is way nicer than earth ever was. People never die there. There is no pain and suffering or illness. People laugh and are happy. They feel loved and never depressed. There is no envy or competition. Pets never die. Colors and sounds are much more intense and stunning than here. The inhabitants are completely satiated and never bored. It’s just the ideal place from every angle.

Furthermore, Josh says he can take us there — he has the technology. He really cares for all the human beings here and he wants to transport them to the wonderful place that he came from. In the news coverage he is quoted as making statements like, “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.” And, “I am going to prepare a place for you. I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”

His space ship has a limited capacity – he can only take a few at a time. He has to make multiple trips. Because of the huge distance to be traveled he has to leave our bodies behind. You know, like in Star Trek, “Beam me up, Scotty.” We will have bodies in our new existence but they will be a little different. As he returns to earth during his multiple trips to transport people, those chosen will not know ahead of time – it will be a surprise. They will not be forced to go with him – it is a completely free offer. But the alternatives are not very attractive. And his choice of people he visits will depend significantly on how people lived their lives here on earth, how they treated other people.

Now the day has come for Josh to return to where he came from. His closest friends are happy for him because he seems excited, but also sad to lose him now that they have grown so fond of him. Josh takes with him 72 old people in his space ship on this first trip. Their physical bodies are able to be seen entering the space ship because Josh wants us to know that this is really happening. Only his closest friends know the day and time of his departure, so the group to send him off is rather small. As he zooms off into the sky it’s a little like Elijah and his fiery chariot.

What a fairy tale, right? Is it nonsense to believe something so fantastic? Obviously, this story is a takeoff of the Jesus event 2,000 years ago, with the main character having the same name in a different form – Joshua. But for those who ate and drank with him and followed him during his ministry, his message was no fairy tale. They endured a lot of hardship traveling throughout the known world trying to get the good news out so that more people would be able to be transported to that better place. They were willing to be tortured and die for that message. One doesn’t go to such extremes for a myth or fairy tale. And through the centuries more and more witnesses to the message have been added. And people have been willing to forego the ordinary pleasures of life for the sake of the message and live in monasteries and convents.

In our own day many Christians are having their faith put to the test in the Middle East, China, Africa and other places. Their steadfast courage is such a powerful testimony to the precious message Jesus brought us so many years ago. Unfortunately, we Christians in America and Europe have not been so heroic in standing up to the onslaughts of secularism and relativism and materialism. Christianity on the whole, in first-world countries, has become insipid. Maybe we need some of those cataclysmic disasters that Stephen Hawking fears in order to whip us back into shape and get our heads screwed on straight again.