When considering the major events in Jesus’ life it is usually enlightening to consider young peoples’ summary of them. Considering the Resurrection of Jesus my granddaughter asked, “What did Jesus say as he rose from the dead?” The answer she considered likely was; “Ta-Ta”. Considering today’s Feast of the Ascension she asked, “What one word would describe the whole event?” She felt that one word is “Poof” in that one moment Jesus was there and the next moment he was gone back to heaven as the Gospels of Matthew and Mark indicated.
The feast we celebrate today, the Ascension is the reverse of the Incarnation of Jesus which we celebrate on Christmas when Jesus took on a physical form while still remaining God in heaven. At the Ascension Jesus physically left this earth and took his resurrected body to heaven. Someday, when we meet God face to face we will understand how that all worked.
That is difficult to understand but can you imagine what was going through Jesus’ mind at the Ascension? They had recently been overjoyed by Jesus’ Resurrection, after having experienced the letdown at his crucifixion. They had thought he was to be the rescuer of the Jewish people from the tyranny of the Romans, then he was killed, but after 3 days he rose but now he was going again. Now what were they to do?
After all those ups and downs Jesus told them what they were to do. Essentially carry out the work he had started, that is, spread the Good News, proclaim his teachings and evangelize by way of following his teachings, witnessing with their lives. Can’t you imagine them saying, “That’s nice but we are uneducated and there is no way people are going to listen to us.” Jesus’ response to their unsaid question is in oour first reading from Acts which reads: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and give you power. Then you will be able to tell everyone in the world. We know that as unlikely as it seemed, it worked and is still working today. There is a story about the angels in heaven questioning how Jesus was planning to continue his work on earth. Jesus response was that was to do that by way of his disciples, one of whom had denied him and the majority of who had deserted him. The angels response was, “And what is you backup plan?” Jesus response was, “There isn’t a need of one.” He sure has confidence in you and me. In order for his disciples to carry out his plan he promised to send them the Holy Spirit. That same promise applies to each of us today and so it is our individual assignments. We are called to preach the Good News and be Evangelizers with both our words and the way we live. That is the ministries of each of us. You and I received the gifts of the Holy Spirit just as the disciples did in our Baptism and in our Confirmation, providing us with the ability to carry out our individual ministries. The Holy Spirit is there for us to teach via the gifts of wisdom, counsel and understanding, and empowers us via the gifts of courage and strength, and to stay close to Jesus via the gifts of piety and the wonder and awe of Him. Just as Jesus left them physically, He was always with them. He isn’t with us physically either but he is always with us. In fact we have an advantage over Jesus’ initial disciples in that we have the truths Jesus taught in our Christian Scriptures and are able to receive Communion where as they only had their memories to fall back on.
Are you and I up to the task and what does it mean to each of us? Meeting our task is how each of us accepts our free gift of salvation and is unique for each of us. After attending a convention led by Billy Graham a woman wrote to him. She said, I feel that God is calling me to preach the Gospel, but the trouble is, I have 12 children. What should I do? Rev. Graham replied, “Dear lady, I am delighted to hear that God has called you to preach the Gospel. I am more delighted to hear that he has provided you with a congregation.
What’s my excuse? What’s your excuse?