At the Father’s Right Hand

4th Sunday of Lent

Jesus tells Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” First, Jesus is raised up on the Cross. Next, he is raised up from the tomb. And finally, he is raised up to heaven. As this week’s section of The Apostles’ Creed proclaims:

He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty
from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.

Jesus’ body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection on Easter. Then he visited his disciples in his body over more than a month, appearing and vanishing, conversing and teaching, eating and drinking, and showing painless wounds in his hands, side, and feet. (Jesus keeps these wounds from his Passion as trophies of his victory.) And then, on the fortieth day, Jesus led his Apostles and disciples a short ways east out of Jerusalem, past the Garden of Gethsemane where he had agonized, and up the Mount of Olives which looks down over the Holy City. He raised his hands and blessed them, and as he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. He was lifted up as they looked on and a cloud took him from their sight. They did him homage and returned to Jerusalem rejoicing. Of course, one cannot fly an airplane or ride a rocket to enter God’s presence (unless the flight ends very badly). Heaven is not a place here or there, but another dimension of reality, distinct from us but not far distant. Jesus ascends in his disciples’ sight to manifest the invisible, his entry into heaven in fulfillment of what King David had foretold about the Christ, one thousand years before, in the 110th Psalm:

The Lord [God] says to my Lord [the Christ]:
“Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet. Yours is princely power from the day of your birth. In holy splendor, before the daystar, like the dew, I have begotten you.” The Lord [God] has sworn an oath he will not change: “You are a priest forever…” At your right hand is [Christ] the Lord, who will crush kings on the day of his great wrath, who judges nations…

From ancient times the right hand has been considered the favored spot, the seat of honor for your right-hand man. Being at the right hand means closeness, allowing for intimacy and confidence. You and I have a great friend in high places who “always lives to make intercession” for “those who draw near to God through him.” Jesus, the high priest of the new and eternal Covenant, has “entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands… but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” Jesus Christ is not only humanity’s priest and advocate in Heaven, before ‘his Father and our Father, his God and our God,‘ he also sits enthroned as our king. As the Prophet Daniel once foresaw concerning Christ in a vision:

“To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

Jesus Christ is King, the Lord of the cosmos and of history, who dwells in his Church where his Kingdom is now present in mystery. The Catholic Church is the seed and beginning of the Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. We now await Christ’s Second Coming in fully-unveiled glory, such that he can no longer be dismissed or ignored by anyone. Jesus will return as ruler of all and come to judge the living and the dead. “‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bend before me, and every tongue shall give praise to God.’ … Then each of us shall give an account of himself to God.” The conduct of each person and the secrets of every heart will be brought to light before his throne. Then the wicked “will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

It is very important that we take God and personal conversion seriously. Our first reading chronicles how God’s people had “added infidelity to infidelity, practicing all the abominations of the nations.” The Lord had sent them his messengers, early and often, for he had compassion on his people, “but they mocked the messengers of God, despised his warnings, and scoffed at his prophets.” God’s anger became so inflamed that he permitted them to be conquered by the Babylonian Empire six hundred years before Christ. Those who escaped the sword were carried off into Babylon captivity to be unhappily subjugated there. As today’s psalm recalls, “by the streams of Babylon we sat and wept.” Many never knew true freedom and peace for the rest of their days. But eventually, the Babylonians were conquered by the Persians, and the Lord inspired King Cyrus of Persia to issue a proclamation throughout his empire encouraging the Jews to return to Jerusalem, rebuild the Temple, and worship God there. Notice how the king made this possible but didn’t force anyone to go. They were free to choose; to either return home or stay far away. Wickedness has grave consequences, in this life and hereafter, yet we do not earn our salvation by doing good deeds. As St. Paul tells us, “by grace you have been saved — [God] raised us up with [Jesus] and seated us with him in the heavens… By grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from you; it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so no one may boast.” Salvation comes from accepting God’s invitation to come home to him.

On the Last Day, Jesus will come again as our Judge, yet “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” In Christ “the light came into the world, but people preferred darkness to light, because their works were evil. For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.” A very powerful way to shed the darkness of sin and come into the light is through Jesus’ Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Here is another divine invitation to freedom and peace: I will be hearing Confessions in St. Paul’s Main Sacristy this Thursday, from 8 AM to 6 PM, at the start of every hour until all are heard. If those times won’t work let me know and we’ll set up something else. Maybe it’s been a long time since your last Confession? Maybe you’re nervous? You don’t need to be. I’ll help you through it. Know that when you come out you will feel absolutely wonderful. And Jesus Christ, seated at the right hand of our Father above, will look upon you and smile.

3 Responses to “At the Father’s Right Hand”

  1. Doug Says:

    In heaven. Glorified. Should be no doubt now about his identity with God the Father.
    Yet …
    “Seated _at the right hand of the father_”
    Not on his lap, at least? Not merged into one God? And, where is the “Third Person”?
    At Rev 3:12 Jesus refers – four times – to someone HE calls “my God”. Who is THAT God, in your theology?

    My point? The Christian’s duty is to proclaim and teach the good news of the Kingdom throughout the earth – and then the end will come. Mt 24:14; 28:19,20. That will be the end of all other pretenders to lawful rulership over men. What a blessing! “on earth as it is in heaven”.

    How can you teach that when you can’t even count to three without your theology getting you in trouble?

    • Fr. Victor Feltes Says:

      Is it your belief that Jesus Christ is not divine and God is not a Trinity?

    • yan Says:

      My understanding is: the word “person” in reference to the godhead refers to manifestations of aspects of personhood: intelligence, will and emotions. As each of these aspects of personhood are manifested individually by Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we infer that each is a divine Person. Thus, we conclude that the Trinity is a Trinity of Persons.

      In the Bible we see each of the individual members of the Trinity manifesting these traits.

      You ask, “where is the 3rd person?” This question could just as easily be asked in regard to the 1st person. Neither the 1st person [Father] nor 3rd [H.S.] has a physical body. Only the 2nd person [Jesus] does. Thus, only in reference to Jesus does it make sense to ask about a physical location for a Person of the Trinity.

      That leaves the issue of the location of the “Right Hand of the Father”. If the Father does not have a body, how can Jesus be “at” the Father’s “right hand”? I don’t know the answer to that question.

      One possible answer is to interpret “right hand” as a metaphor, as the above article does. To do this, we would also necessarily have to infer that when Jesus said “henceforth, you will SEE the Son of Man at the right hand of the Power” also to some extent as a metaphor. I’m always unwilling to interpret Jesus metaphorically unless I have a good reason to do so. I am not sure I have that in this case.

      If asked “why do you believe in the Trinity then?” my answer is that I believe on the authority of the magisterium of the Roman Catholic Church.

      Best of luck as you ponder these things.

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