Feast of the Ascension of the Lord-C
June 2, 2019
Acts of the Apostles 1: 1-11
Ephesians 1: 17-23 or Hebrews 9: 24-28; 10: 19-23
Luke 24: 46-53
Sometimes we can wonder, “Do I really make a difference? After all, I am only one person.”
A relay race helps us to see how important everyone’s efforts are. The baton is passed from one person to another. What is essential is that each person takes hold of that baton and does their very best. The victory that the team wins is a victory shared by all the participants.
That is a bit like today’s Feast of the Ascension. Jesus gives His last instructions to His apostles and disciples. He tells them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth” [Acts 1: 8]. Then He ascends into heaven to be seated at His Father’s right hand.
Jesus passed the baton on to them as He passes that baton of opportunity on to us. Our participation makes a difference, for we are members of the Lord’s team – His family, the Church. We already share in His victory. And we are His messengers to this world.
Who are messengers of Jesus Christ that you know? I have a number of names on my list. Today I thought I would tell you about three.
The first is a lady named Carm, who is now with God. In Carm’s younger days she had planned to get married, but then her widowed sister died and left several young children. So Carm stepped in, as the children’s single aunt, and she became a mother to them.
Carm never did marry. But she wouldn’t have changed a thing. She was loved by those children not only as Aunt Carm, but also as their mother. She took hold of the baton of opportunity when it was passed to her, and she carried it well. She was a messenger of Jesus Christ.
The second person is a Bahamian priest-friend of mine in the Archdiocese of Nassau, Msgr. Preston Moss. People that know him have told me that they believe that, when he was a much younger priest, he had been asked to be their bishop. But in his humility he turned down that invitation because he believed that he could serve Jesus Christ more effectively as a parish priest than he could as a diocesan administrator. And Msgr. Moss has done so faithfully and will celebrate the 54th anniversary of his ordination as a priest on 4 June. He is still a messenger of Jesus Christ.
The third person is someone that we all know, Mother Angelica, the foundress of the Eternal Word Television Network [EWTN]. Some years ago she gave a Lenten lecture at Saint John’s Cathedral where I was living, and I was her chauffeur for the day. Now I can tell you this about Mother Angelica: what you see on the screen is what you got off the set. She was the same person.
Mother Angelica had been invited to have lunch with us at the cathedral rectory. Bishop Issenmann, who was the retired bishop of Cleveland, was there at the table.
Bishop Isennmann did not mince words. He said to Mother Angelica: “Mother, you belong in your Poor Clare monastery, not in a television studio. Right now you should be in the chapel of your convent praying for us.”
Mother Angelica did not mince words either. She replied, looking him square in the eyes: “Bishop Issenmann, if you bishops in the United States were doing what you should to be doing, carrying the message of Jesus Christ to the world on the airwaves, I wouldn’t have to. And then I could be praying right now in our chapel before the Blessed Sacrament for the likes of you!”
She took hold of the baton of opportunity when it was passed to her, and she carried it well. She was a messenger of Jesus Christ – feisty and all!
“You will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.”
We are presented with this opportunity every time we celebrate Sunday Mass. You will notice that at the very beginning of Mass the reader [the lector] carries that big Book of the Gospels up the aisle and places it reverently on the altar. During the singing of the Alleluias, the priest [namely me] picks up the Gospel Book, carries it to the ambo [the pulpit] and proclaims the Gospel for everyone to hear.
Notice, though, that the Gospel Book is carried in at the beginning of Mass, but is not carried out at the end of Mass. Why not?
Because at the very end of Mass, the last sentence spoken is a command, such as: “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” Or, “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life.” And we answer with energy: “Thanks be to God.” Now, having been nourished by His Word and by His Body and Blood in the Eucharist, we are to carry Jesus Christ, whom we have received, and His message to the world.
On this Feast of the Ascension, Jesus hands us the baton as He is seated at the right hand of His Heavenly Father. “You will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth” [Acts 1: 8].
And as His messengers, as members of His team, we really can and should make a difference.