Dear Followers of the Christ,
Today we celebrate The Ascension of the Lord. This feast may seem confusing. In the western part of the United States, this feast is celebrated on Sunday. In the eastern United States, The Ascension of the Lord was celebrated last Thursday, the traditional forty days after Easter. The feast was moved to Sunday because it is a major feast of Jesus and could be celebrated by the majority of Catholics.
The first reading from Mass today is from the Acts of Apostles. This text, Acts 1:1-11, tells the story of the Ascension of Christ Jesus. There is one phrase that always captures my attention, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” I am always with the disciples who must have been so intrigued and confused about all of Jesus’ actions. His death was not expected and then he rises from the dead and they wondered about the meaning of his resurrection. And now he disappears into the sky! Can you imagine what the disciples must have thought about that?
Many years ago, I had a dream about the Ascension. I was in a crowded Jerusalem street in the market place, shoulder to shoulder with people in the hustle and bustle of life. Suddenly at the end of the street amid all the people, Jesus began his ascending into heaven. As he left the ground, he turned to all the people in the crowded street. He seemed to look into all of our eyes at once, including mine. As he left, he said to all of us, “Okay, you guys, you do it, you take over.”
I always found this dream so empowering. I felt he was talking to me in this very vivid dream. As the years go by, I still believe he was speaking to every one of us who follow him. He was asking us to take his place and to do the things he did on earth. He wants us to learn how to heal people, how to invite people into forgiveness, how to raise the dead and offer his touch to the marginalized. He wants us to find in him a gracious way of being tender to people and to put down our armor that keeps people at arm’s length. He wants us to find his peace in the world by working for justice. He wants us to create community and make sure every person belongs in such a space. He wants every person to realize that no matter who they are, the Father has created them, and in the end, they will be just fine.
I believe this dream is not just whimsy. The Ascension is a call and challenge for all of us to get to work. This work means that we witness to all people that we believe in Christ Jesus who walked the earth and that his mission is worthwhile. The Ascension is not meant for us to look up into heaven and reminisce about the past. This feast means that we will focus on the ground, where the work needs to be accomplished in Christ Jesus. So get to work, everyone, and enjoy your life inspired by God for the benefit of our poor, lonely and marginalized. Don’t look up; look around.
Blessings to you,