Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Mk. 16:15-20
Stop Staring, Get Back to Work!
1. William Shakespeare understood life on earth as we see it today. In Merchant of Venice he said through Antonio, “I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano, a stage where everyman must play a part.” (Act 1 Scene 1). And so, it is for everyone; we step into the scene from birth and play our part till death. The feast of Ascension reminds us that Christ, who died, rose from the dead and appeared to his Apostles for 40 days, now ascends into heaven, while the Apostles must continue the work of evangelization. The apostles were prepared for this task from the day Christ began his public ministry until now. He told them, “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mk. 1:15). And at the end of his ministry, he commissioned them to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk. 16:15). We Christians must believe in Christ and witness to him. To be a true Christian is to be a missionary disciple.
2. As Christ was being lifted up, the Apostles looked intently at the sky, I guess wondering what to do next. Angels had to intervene in order to bring them back to reality. “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). With that the Apostles recalled the words of Christ. “You will receive power when the holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8). They must prepare themselves for their mission. So back to Jerusalem they returned and devoted themselves to prayer while waiting for the Holy Spirit. Aren’t we like that most of the time? Thoreau was right when he said, “We live merely like ants, and our lives are frittered away by details.” We often get caught up in problems and are weighed down by difficulties. We tend to lose direction and find it difficult to see things in the correct perspective. At times like these we need to recall the vision faith gives us regarding the goals and meaning of our lives. Why are we here? What is the purpose of our lives? Christianity is not standing around waiting for something to happen; it is about making something to happen. We make it happen by witnessing to the Good News of Jesus Christ through word and deed.
3. The feast of Ascension gives us hope, strengthens our mission and empowers us to bring the gospel of salvation to others. It reminds us of our Baptism; when the word of God was placed on our lips by the minister as he said, “The Lord Jesus made the deaf hear and the dumb speak. May he soon touch your ears to receive his word, and your mouth to proclaim his faith, to the praise and glory of God the Father.” (The Rite of Baptism). Jesus also received his mandate at his baptism. It was then that his mission was revealed. Hence, he said, “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, and let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.” (Lk. 4:18-19). The letter to the Hebrews told us, “For this reason, when he came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; Behold, I come to do you will, O God.’” (Heb. 10:5-7). This too is our mission, to do the will of God and bear witness to him.
4. Ascension is about endings and beginnings. Christ’s personal ministry on earth ended, but the operation of the Holy Spirit in his followers to continue his ministry began. It is now time for us to step up and play our part in the mission of Christ. As he commissioned the disciples, so we are now commissioned to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold I am with you always, until the end of age.” (Mt. 28:19-20). Now the time for preparing his apostles for the mission to build his Church was over, but the time for the participation in the expansion of that church began. We must begin witnessing to Christ and carry on his mission to the ends of the earth. But we know that we are not alone. He is with us always in and through his spirit.
5. To bear witness to Christ we must be men and women of prayer. We come to church to praise God, to hear his word and to break the bread of his body with our brothers and sisters. But we don’t stand by staring up to heaven. We have places to go and things to do. So, we must stop staring and get back to work! We must leave the church with fire in our hearts to preach the word and bear witness to him in the world. Christ has no one else except me and you to continue this mission of love. He has no body but ours, no hands and feet, no eyes and ears, no means to show compassion and love, to show mercy and offer forgiveness, to preach the word and baptize but ours. Our hands must be his hands, our mouth must be his mouth and the good that must be done by him must be done by us. If anyone is to die again for others, it must not be Christ but us, since we are called to bear witness to him. And so, we pray at this Mass that we may witness to Christ by celebrating His Ascension into glory. May this celebration of hope remind us that we too will join Christ one day to enjoy life in full communion with God, to behold his beatific vision, and live in peace and harmony with God and all the saints in glory. Amen.
Rev. Augustine Etemma Inwang, MSP.