I want to engage your imaginations. Let’s go back to the year 33. It is the week after Passover; the week after Jesus’ Resurrection from the dead.
What does the Church do now? There are no Missals or Catechisms. Nobody has ever seen or heard of a priest or a nun or a Pope or a Bishop. Nobody has ever seen a Church.
Two weeks ago, the Church did not exist anywhere. Two weeks ago, Jesus had not yet entered Jerusalem riding an Ass, or been acclaimed as King to the shouts of “Hosanahs”. Two weeks ago Jesus had not had his Last Supper, or given them the Mass, or washed the disciples feet, or experienced his death on a cross.
Now, it is the week after His Resurrection. What do we do now?
The great thing is we know how they responded. These memories for us are invaluable treasures of the Church. They wrote them down.
The first thing we see them doing is praying and pondering. The events of the past week were horrific, mysterious and wonderful, all at the same time. We see Peter and John going up to pray at the Temple at the regular time. They were faithful Jews. They prayed.
The next thing we see needs a little more understanding. We see them imitating Jesus by healing and preaching. But there is a bigger mystery at work here.
So, we must ask an important question. Where did Jesus go after the Resurrection?
Did he simply come into our midst and, then leave?
Recall when he first began his ministry, he said,
“I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God.”
“This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”
Was Jesus just a visitor who came and left us? Where did Jesus go after the Resurrection?
The early Church had a profound understanding that Jesus didn’t leave. The early Church believed he went into the Church. He never left.
At the end of the Gospel of Matthew, he said,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore,* and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
The disciples were now the “Apostles”, which means “sent”. Almost immediately, they began to do what he had been doing. When Peter and John went up to the Temple the week after the Resurrection, they cured a cripple, in the name of Jesus. They preached the Gospel of the Kingdom, and thousands became believers. They forgave sins; something only Jesus had done up to that point. And, they were arrested and began to be persecuted, just as he had been.
Jesus never left. He never stopped his ministry. His death didn’t end his ministry, but it expanded it. He was now working through the Apostles and through the Church. Miracles were now happening through the Church, because Jesus went into the Church.
There is an unbroken continuity between the ministry of Jesus before his Resurrection and his ministry after his Resurrection and Ascension. He acted through the Church.
Where did Jesus go after his Resurrection? Into the Church.
That is why we have our Sacraments. The first Mass was celebrated that first week, and they never stopped saying Mass. Jesus was in their midst. When they were gathered together he was among them; he was present and said,
“Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit.
Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
I don’t have the power to forgive sins, but Jesus does. The only way we have a sacramental Church is because Jesus never left, but entered the Church that he formed. This is the only way we can have Mass today. He is here! He never left.
He is Risen. Aleluia!