Reflections on the Readings
The Ascension of the Lord
Seventh Sunday of Easter - May 16, 2010, Year C
By Dennis Hankins
High and Lifted Up
While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.
A favorite book of mine is, A Man Called Mr. Pentecost. It is the dramatic story of a legendary missionary to the Church, David du Plessis. I read this book for the first time back in the '80's. This book is an account of a Pentecostal minister used to bring the message of the Pentecostal movement and experience to the historic churches and ultimately to the Vatican. Reading it really softened my heart toward the Catholic Church, preparing me to one day to unite fully with it.
Preparing for this Reflection on the Readings, I recalled reading in this book an account about Mr. du Plessis' father dying on Ascension Day. The book is not indexed, and not having time to read the book again, I did the next best thing. Well, the next best thing after thumbing through the book and Googling way too long attempting to locate the story.
You see, I believe my wife is related to St. Anthony. In our family, Debbie is known for her prayers to find things, like things I can't find even with my glasses on. Telling Debbie about my dilemma and how I wanted to quote this passage for this Reflection, and reminding her of her reputation, I asked her to pray. You're right. It was less than five minutes, and I turned to the right pages in the book. So here's the excerpt from A Man Called Mr. Pentecost.
One day early in 1961 (my father) said to my younger brother, Justus, one of the three of us who became preachers, "David may come to South Africa again this year, and, if you write him, tell him if he is coming, to make it before Ascension Day. I've asked the Lord to take me home on Ascension Day.
Justus was startled. "You can't do a thing like that, dad!"
"Well," father replied, "I don't say I'm doing it; I only discussed it with my heavenly Father. And if he approves, that is my desire. And I'm going to prepare for that day."
Dad's getting senile, thought Justus, and he never wrote to me. Neither did any of the other boys.
Late in the morning Ascension Day, a few months later, a pastor came to the house to pick up some of his camping gear that had been left there. He stopped to talk to dad.
"Grandfather (everyone called him that), do you still have some communion wine" Dad loved to grow grapes, and his vines were magnificent. He made unfermented communion wine that was a favorite of everybody.
"Yes," dad said. "I've got a gallon left and you're welcome to it."
Then he said, "You know, this is Ascension Day."
"Well, I've asked the Lord to take me home today."
The pastor assumed he was joking. "In that case, grandfather, please bring me the wine before you go."
Dad went into the house, fetched the wine and gave it to the pastor, who paid him for it. Then dad said, "I won't go to the garage with you. It's open, and you know where your things are. I feel just a little tired, and I'm going to sit down."
"That's fine," the pastor said, and walked away. After only a few steps, he heard a strange little sound---a "hallelujah." He looked around to see dad slumped in his easy chair. The pastor rushed over to him in the bright sunshine of the morning and found dad unconscious.
Just then, mother came out of the house, peaceful and serene, and walked toward them. The pastor was excited, "Grandma, grandpa's fainted."
Mother, smiling and calm, continued her slow pace toward them. "No, pastor he hasn't fainted. He's gone home."
"But, grandma, you take it so easy!" he nearly shouted.
"Oh, it's all right," she said gently. "I expected it. You see, he said goodbye to me at breakfast. He said the Lord might call him and he wouldn't be able to come and say goodbye."
Reverend Du Plessis was at Kennedy Airport in New York when he received the news from his wife.
I paused for moment, but felt absolutely peaceful. "That's just like old dad," I said half-aloud. "He waits until Ascension Day, and he goes up, too."
We live not only in the memory, but also in the meaning of the Ascension of our Lord. Each Sunday, on the Lord's Day, we are in the Spirit, at the celebration of the Eucharist.
At the Sursum Corda (Latin for 'Lift up your hearts') we ascend in the Spirit to enter with confidence the sanctuary not made by hands.
By the blood of Jesus we ascend into heaven itself, appearing in the presence of God, in Christ Jesus, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.
While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
Let us pray: Dear heavenly Father, help us to live and worship in the meaning of Christ's Ascension into heaven itself. Through Jesus, with Jesus, and in Jesus, please keep us in the unity of the Holy Spirit. Amen.