Acts 1:1-11; Eph 4:1-13; Mark 16:15-20
Today’s feast, Ascension Thursday is celebrated on Sunday in many dioceses of the world.
Acts 1:9 is the only canonical text that describes Jesus’ ascent into heaven. “.... as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight.”
Forty days after the Resurrection He left them in the flesh. I wonder if they felt what we feel when a loved one moves away or dies. Alone? Abandoned? Desolate? Or did they recall His promise, one that would be fulfilled in ten days? On Pentecost He would return to them pouring out His spirit. What a moment in time, between Ascension and Pentecost, between loss and promise. He does promise that we will see Him again, as we will one day see our loved ones. But what should we do in the meantime?
As each day dawns, let’s awaken to the gift that this day can be. I find it so helpful to pray through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians from today’s readings. His thoughts fill me with excitement and courage to face the day. It’s empowering to realize that I am not alone. Jesus’ spirit will accompany me as I walk through this day. I believe that each day, when we awaken, there is perched on each shoulder an angel of affirmation and a demon of discouragement. Whichever one you choose to listen to, so goes the day. Invoking the angel of affirmation, i.e. the Spirit of Jesus, enables me to live my call today. It’s the call that each of us has, “to proclaim the gospel to every creature.” That call can be seen as overwhelming until I realize that with the call comes the gift of Jesus’ indwelling spirit, gracing and blessing my every effort.
From the history of my life I know that God comes to us through the incarnation of caring people. So today I pray to be available and reverently responsive to the people I’ll meet today. It’s the gospels’ theme. It’s our call. One final thought emerges from a question in today’s reading from Acts: “... why are you standing there looking up at the sky?” These words evoked a memory of my brother’s dying. As I paced back and forth past the nurses station in the ICU of a Chicago hospital, I memorized the words on a small poster one of the nurses had displayed. It read: “A man went out on a starry night and shook his fist at the heavens yelling, “Oh, God, what a lousy, rotten world you’ve made. I could have done much better.” Then a voice boomed from the clouds saying, “That’s why I put you there. Get busy.”
So let us begin - again.
By Don Driscoll