The Ascension of the Lord
Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel reminds me of a famous saying of St. Francis of Assisi, “Preach the Gospel and all times and if necessary use words.” So often when we read these words of Jesus we automatically think of what words to use to effectively communicate the Good News. The reality is that words often fall short unless accompanied by actions. Our actions can bring words to life or make those words irrelevant. If you think about the people you know whose words make a difference, it is usually because of their actions. You know something has touched you; their words carry weight and you will be more likely to hear their message.
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we get a kind of back story to the event. As I read, I get a sense of a threshold moment in the life of the early church; Jesus is taken up to heaven on a cloud with its echoes of Elijah (2 Kings 2:9-11) as the “Men of Galilee” continue to look up. I wonder what was going through their heads—and their hearts? Did they feel loss in that moment? We read of their absolute fear as they locked themselves in the Upper Room (John 20:19) before Pentecost. The first readers of this text would be well familiar with the experience and emotion of Jesus’ departure and of the Apostles stepping into his earthly role—moving beyond their fear into the freedom of life-in-Christ.
It is no different for us today, we may think that Jesus’ command to “Go..” has somehow been watered down for us. It has not; it is essentially the same. Do the captives still need liberty proclaimed to them; the blind need their eyes opened; the oppressed need to go free? Absolutely!
There will always be a need to bring the light of Christ into the darkness around us; to bring mercy into our world. By virtue of our baptism (Christening) we are called to be a Christ.
We stand on the shoulders of giants –those who answered the call of Christ from the first moments, we are the beneficiaries of their labors in the vineyard of the Lord. “How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of those who being good news.” (Is 57:7)
St. Paul of the Cross, the founder of the Passionist Congregation said to his companions, “The world lives unmindful of the sufferings of Jesus. We must arouse the world from its slumber. His Holy Spirit will teach us how.” So, we can relax because the freedom to act and move and speak can only come through “the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.” v.20
Thank you, Lord, for the gift of all those who have gone before us who brought the good news of your love and salvation—who set us free! Give us the grace to allow you to Go in us beyond our comfort zone to new challenges in our lives. Let your glory shine through us. Bless all Mothers this day. Amen.
Jean Bowler is a retreatant at Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center in Sierra Madre, California, and a member of the Office of Mission Effectiveness Board of Holy Cross Province.