Reflections on the Readings
The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord
June 5, 2011 - Year A
By Dennis S. Hankins
Into All the World
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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." - Matthew 28:19-20
And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. - Acts 1:9
The year we came into the Church, the priest lamented that for the first time in his priesthood he did not have any baptisms. Intuitively we know that baptisms are the mark of a growing Church. Making disciples is the Church at its best - It is her mission! It is the understanding of recent Popes including Pope Benedict XVI. The vision coming from the See of Peter is that we should embrace this new millennium as the time of a new springtime for the Church - a new Evangelization.
Since the earliest days of the Church, making disciples is a process. Getting the gospel message out takes time, talent, and the treasured presence of the Holy Spirit. Although it is possible to become a convert to Christ in a moment, the necessary elements of the conversion process include catechesis, exorcisms, baptism, mystagogy, eucharist, and the fellowship with other believers. This is the understanding of conversion when we read, they (the new converts) devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Acts 2:42
But who makes making disciples possible? I would submit that you and I do. It is our calling to 'let our light shine' so that others will come to recognize God. To know the Lord and to make him known is the vital role we have as witnesses of Christ. Generally speaking, each of us has a circle of about eight people we have connections with. 'Our world' includes family, neighbors, friends, and colleagues. Among these we have the opportunity to make Christ known. All of us are the light of the world. The proper use of a candle is on a stand providing light to all in the house. Placing our candle under a bushel is to leave 'our world' in darkness.
Christ did not leave us when he ascended to the right hand of the Father. His work is now our work - Our work is to exceed his - greater works than these shall you do because I go to the Father, he said. In this novena leading to Pentecost we pray for the Holy Spirit to descend from our ascended Lord upon us. In this way Jesus is always with us. In the Holy Spirit we continue to extend the kingdom of love, joy and peace. It is our hearts that first must be set on fire with that same Spirit that rested upon the 120 on the Day of Pentecost.
Our influence in the world is to bring an awareness of God's gift of salvation through Christ. We live among family and friends who always need the reminder that there is forgiveness and kindness and comfort in knowing Jesus. The times in which we live are filled with violence and vitriol. All around us are men and women taken captive with the lust of their hearts. Others have grown cold in their faith and withdrawn from the Church. Satan stalks all around like a roaring lion seeking anyone he might devour. Now more than anytime in history we need God's presence. We live among the spiritually wounded and dying. And like the man who fell among thieves on the Jericho road, we must help these precious souls among us, pouring into their wounded soul the oil of gladness.
With all of my heart I believe Jesus wants his Church to grow. He wants each of his disciples to have hearts set on fire with spiritual love for their neighbor. Jesus wants to give us a spirit of wisdom and revelation so that our hearts are alive with his calling and presence in us. He wants us to make known the riches of his glory. It is his power he wants the sinner to experience - the power that breaks the power of sin in the heart and sets the captive free. It is the old but ever new story of the victory of Jesus over sin, death, and the grave taking hold of our imagination. That story never grows old - the message that Christ forgives and restores everyone who believes in him.
Today we celebrate the glorious Ascension of Jesus. He is high and lifted up and his glory fills heaven and earth. He rose amid shouts of joy and trumpet blasts for the King of all the earth is God. And when he is lifted up today in this bread and this wine, we remember that the lover of souls sends us into the world, our world, to love and serve one another. Amen. ✠