Today’s celebration of the Ascension of our Lord and the accompanying readings give us an understanding of an important hinging point in the lives of Christians. They went from having Jesus with them in an intelligible way, that their senses and intellect could perceive. They could see him, touch him and communicate with him.
This hinging point in which Jesus ascended marked a change. He was still intelligible, but in less obvious ways. Today’s Gospel concludes with the words, “The Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”
Again, St. Mark tells us that he was taken up into heaven, but also that the Lord continued to work with them as they went forth and did the work he had commissioned them to do. He remains with us in a new way, even after having ascended.
That’s important, especially in whatever way we feel alone, both as a community and as individual men, women and children. He remains with us. He is the one through whom all things were created, and so we experience him in creation. He remains with us in our care for one another, especially in our care for the poor. And of course, he remains with us, alive in the grace of the Sacraments he has given us.
It’s an interesting point to me that St. Mark seems to say that he is with us, to the extent that we respond to his commission. It makes me wonder: in any way we feel alone or unable to feel his presence, is it because we’re not doing our part in his command to continue in the work of his mission? If we want him to be close, let us go and do his work.
In that conclusion to our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, just after Jesus had disappeared from the midst of the disciples, as they stood there with must have been dumfounded expressions and jaws agape, two angels said to them: “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” It seems to infer the command, “Don’t just stand there. Go and do what he called you to do……Go!”
I remind us that the Mass ends with a similar command or commissioning. And of course, we know that we’re called by Jesus to take the experience of this new life he gives us in the Eucharist, out into the world around us. But I wonder how many of us don’t really consider what he gave us, nor what he’s personally calling us to as we leave. For many of us, we go, but to do our business, not his.
I realize that some of us are double-parked and aren’t afforded time to remain and discern this personal commissioning. I’m sorry for that. But perhaps for too many of us, we simply choose to rush toward whatever is next in our busy lives, with no sense of what we received in Jesus’ Body and Blood, nor what it’s calling us to today, this week. The other problem is that for those who wish to remain, it’s not always easy to stay here and discern that commissioning. I sometimes hear this lament, “Father, is it possible that people could have their loud conversations in another part of the church?” A fair question.
I remind you that in your pews is a cream-colored tri-fold about the Mass. On the front of it are some good questions to quietly reflect before we begin Mass. But also, there are questions to likewise help us discern, having just received the grace of the Sacrament and our commissioning as we depart. What did God say to me in this Mass?....What’s He calling me to this week?
Those questions are followed by a short prayer: “Lord, as I depart from this place, may I take what I have experienced of You and reveal it by my life. Having been blessed and dismissed as Your Disciple, may I go forth, living in accord with Your Love, and advancing Your Kingdom a little more. Amen.”
I believe those angels would say to us: Men and women of Issaquah, don’t just stand there! Go and do his work. Yes, go. But maybe taking a little time with those questions and that prayer can help us understand how he is calling us.