May 17, 2015
THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION
(Thursday after Sixth Sunday — or it replaces Seventh Sunday)
“Up and Out”
Inventory (Feast of the Ascension, Year B)
Am I on fire to “proclaim the Good News to all creation”? What effect has the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus into heaven had on me?
The angel of the Entrance Antiphon asks those who saw and heard and dealt with Jesus why they were standing around “looking up at the skies.” Didn’t they understand that their crucial place in history (“men of Galilee”) gave them work to do? The Jesus who ascended is going to return. The interim period is working time. Didn’t they remember the job Jesus gave them: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth!”
What about our crucial place in history” Men and women of the Americas, Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, the Pacific islands. Men and women of the Third Millennium. Do we have a job to do? Is it just as important in our time and place as it was then? Are we doing it? Or are we just “standing around” — looking at what?
In the (alternative) Opening Prayer we say to the Father, “Our minds were prepared for the coming of your kingdom when you took Jesus beyond our sight.” How did Christ’s ascension prepare us for the coming of his kingdom?
The answer is that it focused us on the glory into which Jesus entered “so that we might seek him in his glory” — that is, “follow where he has led,” keep in view his victory, foresee his kingdom established throughout the world, and “find our hope in his glory.” In other words, work for it.
The Ascension moves us to get moving!
The Responsorial Psalm calls us to celebrate: “God mounts his throne to shouts of joy; a blare of trumpets for the Lord” (Psalm 47).
Acts 1: 1-11 tells us what we are celebrating: a victory that will be our accomplishment as well as Christ’s. When the disciples asked Jesus, “Lord is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” he told them not to focus on “times or dates” but on their own role in bringing it about: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth!”
The Psalm continues, “God is king of all the earth… God is king over the nations.” Until the reign of his peace, his love, is established over every area and activity of human life on earth, our work is not done. We cannot fulfill our task without “power from on high,” but that power is the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through the members of Christ’s body on earth. There is no point in “looking up to heaven” unless we intend to take what is given to us from heaven and put it to work
All under his feet
We are acutely conscious that to be effective witnesses to the mystery of Jesus Christ we need a “spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed,” so that we can come to “full knowledge of him.” Ephesians 1: 17-23 tells us that to make known how good the Good News is we need to “see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised,” and on the practical level “how infinitely great is the power he has exercised for us believers.”
We are only too aware of the prevalence of sin, the power of entrenched attitudes, values and priorities in every human society. But by raising Jesus from the dead to “make him sit at his right hand in heaven” the “God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,” has made clear “the strength of his power at work in Christ.” Jesus is “far above” every power and authority on earth. God has “put all things under his feet.” Paul specifies that Jesus rules, not just from the distance of heaven, but as “head of the Church, which is his body” on earth. The power that is his at the “right hand of God” is at hand for us, working in and through the Spirit active within us. We need to “own” this and act in the power poured out on us, present in our hearts.
Mark 16: 15-20 is a starting gun. Its message is “Go, go, go! Proclaim the Good News to all creation!” God will work with you. You will walk unharmed through all the striking snakes of a society dominated by the power and riches of this world. You will be offered immunity to the “deadly poison” of a culture immersed in deception, seductive allurements and “spin.” Move out! You have the power to heal anything you lay your hands on. Go! Believe in the promise the Church taught you to pray for since you were a child: “Send forth your Spirit and our hearts will be regenerated — and you shall renew the face of the earth!” Go! Proclaim the Good News to all creation! How? By taking action where you live and work and recreate: in your home, your social life, business and politics; action based on faith and hope in the power of Jesus seated at the right hand of God.
Does the Ascension of Jesus inspire you to be his presence on earth?
Keep asking Jesus, “Act with me, act in me, act through me” in everything you do.