Feast of the Ascension – A
In days before television there was vaudeville. Those live stage shows enabled actors and actresses to perfect their skills. And they all had their little tricks of the trade.
Sometimes audiences could be hostile. And so to prevent silence or even booing at the end of a show, they would arrange for those big show-stopping production numbers to ensure applause when they left the stage.
Eddie Leonard was one of the finest, and this was his little trick of the trade: he would announce that this was his last show, and he would get a thunderous round of applause. He made that same announcement every night for 20 years. And it always worked!
This Feast of the Ascension is Jesus’ final curtain call as He goes back to heaven to be seated at His Father’s right hand. But Jesus didn’t have to resort to gimmicks. His audience – His disciples – hung on His every word. He tells them – and us: “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 behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Jesus’ first and last words to His disciples in the Gospels were “come” and “go.”
As He began His public life: “Come and follow Me.” And then, on the day of His Ascension to heaven: “Go, and make disciples.”
Jesus has invited us to “come” and be His disciples. Now he commands us to “go, and make disciples.”
Jesus left this world with some of His work not yet finished, and He put the responsibility for its completion in our hands.
As disciples of Jesus, making a commitment to the Lord and His work with our time, our talent and our treasure can make us a little fearful: maybe afraid of the challenge, or of failure, or of some changes that we need to make in our lives.
Our attitude to Jesus’ call can be either “Yes, but…” or “Yes, and…”
When opportunities come our way, we can say, “Oh yes, Lord, that’s a great idea, but I can’t do it.” “Yes, but…”
The other approach is “Yes, and…” “Yes, Lord, and what can I do to help?” “Yes, and…”
Bishop Sheen was preaching a homily one time on this very subject, about disciples of Jesus being either “Yes, but…” or “Yes, and…”, and in his wit he looked out at the congregation and said: “And I need to tell you, some of you people are sliding to hell on your ‘buts’.” “Yes, but…” or
The president of a Catholic college, who was also a priest, got a telephone call from an angry father of a graduating senior.
He said, “My daughter has been a student at your school for all these years, and now she’s ready to just throw it all away! She wants to become a lay missionary in Haiti, and I hold you personally responsible for this!”
The priest used a trick of our trade, and I’ll tell you what it is: you just let the person vent. You say nothing. And then when they’re all worn down, you calmly move in for the kill!
That’s what this college president did.
When there was silence, the priest asked him, “Why are you blaming me?”
And the dad said, “Because you put all of those crazy religious ideas into her mind.”
The priest then asked, “Who brought your daughter to the Church to be baptized?”
“Well, I did,” the father said.
“And who provided your daughter with all these years of Catholic education?”
“Well, I did,” he replied.
And then the priest moved in. He said, “You want to know the truth? YOU are the reason that she is, as you say, ‘throwing it all away,’ because YOU are the one who made her a disciple of Jesus Christ.”
And isn’t that the truth? However, the dad was a “Yes, but…” follower of Jesus Christ. His daughter was a “Yes, and…” disciple.
“Come and follow Me.” “Go, and make disciples,” Jesus says. There is something that God intends for each one of us to do. And if we don’t do it, it probably won’t get done.
What kind of disciples are we? “Yes, but…” or “Yes, and…”? The truth of the matter is that we are probably a little bit of both. But Jesus still offers us His invitation and leads us by His example.
Jesus is always “Yes, and…” when it comes to us, and He is hoping that we will be “Yes, and…” when it comes to Him.
“Come and follow Me,” Jesus first said to us. And now He says, “Go, and make disciples.”