Wednesday, May 16, 2007

You be Jesus!

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, May 17, 2007:

A mother was preparing pancakes for her young sons, David and Billy. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, He would say ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.’ David turned to his younger brother and said, “Billy, you be Jesus!”

The Preface to today’s Eucharistic Prayer says, “Christ…has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us, but to be our hope. Christ is the beginning, the head of the Church; where he has gone, we hope to follow.”

Today’s feast of the Ascension of Jesus to Heaven, marks something of an ending – it commemorates the end of Jesus time with us on earth as a man. This feast doesn’t try and explain how the Ascension happened – that is a mystery; instead, it sheds light on what it all means, “Christ…has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us, but to be our hope.”

Ascension has two strong qualities of hope and of challenge or commissioning. First the hope: Jesus didn’t ascend to an unknown place. He didn’t disappear into the clouds and no one knows where He is never to be seen or heard from again. No instead, “Where He has gone, we hope to follow.” Jesus attained the goal of all humanity – an eternity in Heaven; an eternity caught up in the loving gaze and grace of God the Father; and eternity of glory and perfection that can only be found in Heaven. And, all of us who have been baptized into life in Christ hope to follow Him to that place.

But, we are also challenged today by the realization that with His ascension, Jesus has left everything else in our hands until the end of time. Another way of phrasing this challenge, is that as He ascends to the Father in Heaven Jesus says to us the same as the punch line of the joke I began with: “Now, you be Jesus.”

As Jesus returns to the Father, He says to us, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses …to the ends of the earth.” He says, I will send the Holy Spirit so that you will have what you need to be My presence in the world until I return. Jesus brought to us the most incredible gifts ever – He brought us the Gospel; He brought us the Sacraments; He brought us the Church. And then, He left them in our hands to be the ones who proclaim those Holy Words; share those Divine Gifts; and welcome the world to take part in this mystery as one great community of believers.

St. Paul reminds us of the same thing in the reading from Ephesians, “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call…for us who believe.” We are the hope of the Gospel; we are the hope of Jesus. We must all pick up the call that He has given us to preach the Good News to the ends of the earth. We’re being called to bear witness to the Gospel and to make disciples of all nations.

Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to be Jesus in a world crying out desperately for Him. Our mission is to be the presence of His kindness, compassion, joy, and love to a world that is too often dominated by vengeance, evil, war, greed, materialism, and meanness. To all of those societal ills, we are commissioned: You be Jesus! To the immorality all around us, we are challenged: You be Jesus. To the impurity we are faced with every day – whether the scourge of the profane on television and movies and in music; the epidemic of people living together outside of wedlock; the destruction of the family; the attacks on the sanctity of marriage – we are called: You be Jesus. To the lack of peace in our world – in marriages, relationships, family, our country and world – we are charged: You be Jesus! Because if not you; if not me; than who will be Jesus in our world?

I saw a bumper sticker once that said, “Jesus is coming…look busy!” Jesus reminds us that He will send His Spirit to empower us; that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can in fact be His presence in our world now. We need only to open ourselves to the grace of His Word, His Sacraments, and His Holy Spirit. If we do these things, my brothers and sisters, He promises us that mountains will be moved by our faith.

“Christ…has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us, but to be our hope. Christ is the beginning, the head of the Church; where he has gone, we hope to follow.”

My brothers and sisters, you be Jesus.

May God give you peace.

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