Seventh Sunday of Easter
June 2, 2019
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“Give it a year.” The parting words from father to son, from Richard Kehrwald to 15-year-old Leif as he went off to boarding school. Wise words from a parent who knew the son would get homesick, want to quit and come home. Who knew that if the son overcame that initial wave of homesickness, he just might have one of the most formative experiences of his life. . . . And that’s just what happened.
Parting words often have real impact. Some parting words from famous people:
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss
“So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good.” Helen Keller
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” A.A. Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh)
What’s the connection between ‘parting words’ and today’s readings and today’s baptisms? Glad you asked. Let me explain.
Today we hear two accounts of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven; both written by Luke. It is generally accepted that Luke and Acts were penned by the same author, and were written as two parts of one story:
Part 1 The Gospel of Luke portrays the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
Part 2: Acts of the Apostles traces the establishment of, and the early experiences of the Church.
The hinge between the two parts: the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. The Ascension marks the point at which the disciples must take up the mission begun by Jesus. As long as Jesus is walking the earth, the mission cannot be passed on. Jesus must leave, physically, so that the disciples can take up the mantle and carry on. With the help of the gift of the Holy Spirit, of course.
And that, by the way, is what we celebrate next Sunday. Pentecost. The arrival of the Holy Spirit, like a rush of wind, like tongues of fire to strengthen and inspire the disciples to carry on Jesus’ mission. Ascension makes no sense without Pentecost. Pentecost can’t happen without the Ascension.
So today, on this feast, we should be intensely curious about what Jesus says, for, in effect, they are his parting words.
If you knew you’ll never see someone, or a group of persons, ever again; people you’ve loved and lived with for years, people whose lives you’ve changed forever, what would you say to them as you depart?
Or, turn the tables. Has anyone ever shared their parting words with you? What were they? “Give it a year, son.”
In Luke, Jesus says that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed to all the nations.
In Acts, Jesus told his disciples that while John baptized with water, in just a few days you will be baptized by the Holy Spirit, (he knew Pentecost was coming) and you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.
In Mark, Jesus says to go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.
And while Matthew does not speak of the Ascension, the final words of Jesus in Matthew are perhaps the most profound, and well known: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
The message is crystal clear: in his final words, Jesus calls each of us to spread the message, proclaim the Good News, preach the Gospel . . . and baptize those who come along. And lest that makes you uncomfortable, remember the words attributed to St. Francis, “Preach the Gospel always, and if necessary, use words.” Let your very life teach and proclaim.
There is no better day than today to baptize D’Mac, Jeremial, Sarayah, Jacob, Semira and Amato. We will get you wet, hold you up, and cheer. We will clothe you in white, rub you with more oil, and give you the light of Christ. We will take pictures, celebrate, eat cake, and make a memory of this day that will last for years to come.
And one day your mom or your dad or your godparents or grandparents will say to you, “Let me tell you about the day you were baptized. It was a great feast day at church, and you were at the center of it all. And let me show you the pictures and the video we took. For it was truly special.”
And a part of you will also remember that on this day, some really important promises were made:
So, D’Mac, Jeremial, Sarayah, Jacob, Semira and Amato . . . it’s time. This is the best part. Grab your parents and godparents, and let’s go over and get you wet.