Dear Believers in Christ Jesus,
We celebrate the Ascension of the Lord this weekend. The gospel (Matthew 28:16-20) invites us to let go of Jesus one more time. Jesus calls the disciples to go to a mountain. This mountain brings back the image of Jesus teaching the Beatitudes on the hillside and even his death on Calvary. This mountain becomes another moment of transition.
Jesus calls the eleven disciples together. They worship him and yet they doubt. This combination of love and uncertainty combines together in the Easter season. Thomas, together with others, have witnessed Jesus’ miraculous life and yet hold moments of doubt and questioning. Now the eleven stand on the mountain uncertain about the next step for Jesus and especially the future of their own lives.
Jesus says that all power is given to him. All during the Lenten and Easter seasons, we have heard of Jesus’ connection to the Father. His authority is shown to the disciples one more time. Like reluctant grown children leaving their parents’ home, Jesus now pushes the eleven disciples out of the nest. He sends them into the world to baptize and claim all people for God. Jesus sends them empowered by the Holy Trinity. He commands that they not be fearful or dormant, but courageous in their efforts to proclaim Good News to all people.
The Ascension is not about looking up in the sky and adoring the presence or absence of Jesus. This feast is a command to put our faith into practice, to preach and baptize, to offer peace and harmony, to satisfy the longing of people in their empty hearts. The gospel reveals the mission of the Church.
We live this mission at every Mass. We take the Real Presence of Christ Jesus into the fragile and lost world. We live the mission of hope and peace, of reconciliation and comfort. The Mass is not an end in itself. Even the word “Mass” comes from the word “dismissal.” We are sent with a new imagination, with a new discovery of how our baptismal lives flow into the mystery of our humanity and searching.
The Ascension invites us to get moving, to put into practice what we have discovered in our lives of conversion and change this Easter season. We know that the Ascension leads to Pentecost. We are not alone. We are not orphans. We are not selfish and isolated. We are people who practice our faith, first encountering the person of Jesus in our baptism and the celebration of Eucharist.
Faith means being sent into a harsh and often uncaring world. I invite you to reflect on the mission of our faith that rests in your heart.
What do you understand of Jesus sending the disciples into the world? How is this moment in the gospel an act of hope and a moment of fear? How does the Ascension shape your faith and your service in our world?