The Ascension of the Lord
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
The Lord's ascension into heaven reveals a truth about his resurrection from the dead. His resurrection reveals a truth about his passion – his trial and torture. His passion tells us something about his life and ministry among us. And his life and ministry tells us a great deal about how and why the Son took on human flesh to become one of us. Therefore, the Lord's ascension reveals a truth not only about who and what Christ is and was, it also reveals a truth about who and what you and I are right now. . .and can be one day. But before we can think too much about where we might be going with Christ sometime in the distant future, we need to think clearly and carefully about what we are doing right now to live out his final charge to us. Right before he is taken up into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, he says to his disciples and to us, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” That's our job description as followers of Christ. Go and proclaim the Good News. In word and deed, in everything we say and do, proclaim God's freely offered mercy to sinners. Are you doing this? Are you witnessing to the power of God's mercy?
If not, why not? There are thousands of reasons and twice as many excuses for not doing what the Lord has commanded us to do. I'm busy. I'm not smart enough. It's embarrassing. People will think I'm a religious nut. Is that the priests' job? Like I said, lots of reasons and excuses. Unfortunately, Jesus didn't say, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. . .unless you find it embarrassing, inconvenient, or frightening.” He said, “Go and proclaim.” And then he ascended into heaven. No time for arguments or appeals. But if you will remember I said earlier on that Christ's ascension reveals a truth about who and what you and I are and will be. When Christ ascended into heaven, he took us with him. Or rather, he made it possible for us to follow. Not only did he make it possible for us to follow him, his ascension made it possible for him to be with us always. After he left them, Scripture says, “. . .they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them. . .” He ascended so that he could be available for us everywhere and at all times, even here and now. So, our reasons and excuses for not bearing witness are weak in light of the fact that Christ is working right beside us, even when we're not doing much at all.
If you need further prompting to get busy in the business of bearing witness, here's what Paul writes to his fellow Christians, “I. . .urge you to live in a manner worthy of the calling you have received. . .” The calling you have received. Not just the calling that you have been given. BUT the calling that you heard and took on and vowed to carried out. If you are what you eat in this life, then you will be what you honor now in the next life. Again, honoring our vow to bear witness to God's mercy is not a burden. Christ is always here beside us. His ascension guarantees his enduring presence and on-going help. He gives us everything we need to do the job we agreed to do. We just need the courage to receive his help and get to work. We have the Church, the sacraments, the Living Word; we have one another, brothers and sisters in the Spirit, and we have the promise of Christ Jesus himself. There is nothing to fear. Nothing to be embarrassed about. And nothing at all to lose. You are teachers and preachers of the Good News. “Go [therefore] into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”
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