Monday, May 25, 2015

Ascension of Christ: Call to Mission

“Picture the Ascension of Our Lord, as told in the Acts of the Apostles. The eleven go up to Mount Olivet and watch Jesus ascend into heaven. All they can do is stare up at the clouds. It takes an angel to bring them back to earth by asking them why they are just standing there gazing upward.

The implication is that there is work to be done, there is no time to waste here—get started on your mission. This message is also for us—and for all disciples throughout history. There is no time for standing around. We have the vocation as baptized Christians to carry out Jesus’ commission to “go out into the whole world and preach the Gospel to every creature”.

But like the Apostles, don’t you often wonder about what heaven will be like?

St. Luke says that “people will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God.”

St. John tells us “ In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”

St. Paul says, “set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”

We read in Revelations, “ No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”

In these passages, we see heaven described as a feast, as a homecoming which Christ has specially prepared for us, as the throne room of God where Christ dispels all fear and darkness. The feast of the Ascension is all about this. Jesus ascends into heaven, a place we cannot even imagine, “eye has not seen, ear has not heard, those things God has prepared for those who love Him.” He says that He must go to heaven to send the Advocate on the apostles. At the time, all the apostles understood was that Jesus was leaving them. They were afraid at being left “alone,” so they gathered in prayer with Mary and some of the disciples. They prayed for nine days, the first novena, before the Spirit descended upon them, dissipated their fears and impelled them to go out preaching the Good News.

When the Spirit came at Pentecost in wind and fire, the apostles were transformed. They realized that they were not alone, that Christ and the power of God lived within them. St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582) put it this way: “Christ has no body here on earth but yours now, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; your eyes are the eyes through which Christ looks compassionately on the world. Yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now.”

Let us set our sights on heaven as our goal, knowing that Christ is in us making all things possible.