Feast of the Ascension
Sr Phyllis Jaszkowiak
May 28, 2017
“Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” These past 40 days have been a turmoil for all the disciples. Jesus is condemned, crucified, buried and then he rises. He appears to the women first, giving them the commission to tell the others that Jesus is risen. Jesus then appears to all the disciples, off and on, for the next 40 days.
Now, the disciples still ask when will Jesus restore the kingdom to Israel. They haven’t quite caught the message of the resurrection. However, Jesus, always full of surprises, doesn’t answer their question. He tells them they are to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. Jesus is then taken up into heaven. So they stand looking at the sky.
Jason Byassee in his article in Sojourners magazine puts it this way. The disciples have just been given the command to go out to the whole world and be witnesses to Jesus. “Wow. Outstanding. Amazing. And so the disciples – pray. That’s it. They don’t gear up, study other languages, prepare to take over the world in God’s name. They gather in a dining room and pray. They might as well have played Tetris and Pokemon Go. Here they’ve been charged to remake the world God’s way and they rush out and – do nothing. Which is what prayer is – an inactivity in God’s presence.”
They need to pray to be open to and to wait for the Spirit before they understand what they are to do.
Ronald Rolheiser in his book, The Holy Longing, says that the Ascension happened so that we could have a chance to let go of what was, mourn the passing, and move on to what is new. All the apostles, women and men, lost the Jesus they knew when he was crucified and buried. They had to let go of the Jesus they knew and loved.
The Ascension is another step. It seems final. Jesus is taken up. He goes away. He doesn’t come back. So another letting go of being with Jesus needs to happen before the understanding, courage, and willingness is given to do the command stated in Matthew’s Gospel – to go to all the nations, to make disciples, baptize, teach, and that Jesus is with them always.
We, today, are the recipients of their experience of the Risen Jesus, the Jesus who ascends, and the Jesus who is here with us now and always.
Today, our task is to find Jesus in ourselves, in others, in the communities we form. Jesus walks among us in the different cultures, races, ethnic groups. We need to let go of the image of the one, perfect Jesus and grab hold of the Jesus in the stranger, in the immigrant, in the different races, in the other. As Mary Jo Leddy, in her book The Other Face of God, says, “For Christ lives in the border [the spaces] between us where the Holy Spirit moves like breath, like breathing. The border the [spaces] is where the Spirit of Christ is activated, where the Spirit lives now… The Spirit of Christ is born between us as we live together, suffer together, and rejoice together. Christ comes alive when another summons us to become who we really are.”
I was at one of our Eritrean homes at a celebration of First Communion. I couldn’t understand any of the words being spoken, but the actions spoke louder than words of how they follow Christ. They welcomed everyone and excluded no one. They took care of a disabled person in their midst. They made sure that the elders were served and had what they needed. The sounds were friendly and celebratory. I felt included and a part of the gathering.
This is how Jesus is present with us now, in community of every kind. We follow Jesus’ command to love when we are hospitable, inclusive, friendly, care for each other. It is in community that we go forth to make Jesus present in our world. We don’t do it alone for Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always”.
With that promise let us go forward, strengthening our community, becoming better disciples, trusting Christ’s promise to be with us always.
Jason Byasse, TO ALL THE WORLD. May 2017 Sojourners Magazine. Page 45.
Ronald Rolheiser, THE HOLY LONGING. Publisher Doubleday, 1999. Pages 148 – 162.
Mary Jo Leddy THE OTHER FACE OF GOD: WHERE THE STRANGER CALLS US HOME.
Publisher Orbis Books, 2011. Page 119
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