Ascension of the Lord – Fr. Bill McNeeley
June 1, 2019 – 5:00PM
June 2, 2019 – 11:00AM
In the 1994 movie Forrest Gump, Forrest goes on a run one day and keeps running for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days, and 16 hours. He crosses the United States twice, and partially another time or two. You might recall the scene in which Forrest decides he is done running. Over the years he collected a group of followers, both literally and figuratively. Suddenly he stopped running, turned around and faced the group when someone says, “Quiet, he’s about to speak.” Forrest says “I’m awful tired. I wanna go home.” As he walks away, a lone voice from the crowd says, “Now what do we do?”
Now I am not going to say that Jesus is just like Forrest Gump, even though Jesus did go home to his Father. His disciples did have to answer that same question, “Now what do we do?” Fortunately, Jesus gave them clear instructions, at least for what they should do, even if the “How?” was left up to them, not to decide for themselves but to discern from God what Jesus would have them do. Jesus did not establish a defined church, hierarchy, and doctrines. Those things developed out of necessity and early on the Church learned early on that it needed organized communities, which was Paul’s great endeavor. At the very heart and soul of all this is a living relationship with the Risen Lord. Being a Christian has never been simply a matter of “going to church” for an hour a week. We are a bit more organized, and the hierarchy is far more developed but being a Christian means having and maintaining a living relationship with the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ.
Today, the Apostles are less afraid than they were when Jesus came to them on that first Easter, but losing him today for a second time could not have been easy. In our first reading, they are left staring up at heaven. In the Gospel, they go rejoicing, filled with great joy. So which is it? Are they bewildered or joy-filled.? Actually, they are both.
The Apostles have journeyed with Jesus for three years. They have witnessed the miracles and the parables. They have also witnessed the resentments and the ridicule. They have just witnessed his torturous death and his glorious Resurrection. It has truly been a rollercoaster ride of giant proportions.
Such is the life of discipleship we live even today as we gather to celebrate the moment between Easter and Pentecost. We are a people living in a kingdom established here on earth, but not yet part of its fullness found in the next life. It is an in-between moment for the Church and in our own lives. How we choose to face such moments tells us how resilient our faith is, or whether there is work to be done to strengthen our reliance on Jesus and on his promises.
It is always going to be easier to have faith when things are going well. It is in those in-between moments that we learn a great deal about ourselves. It is okay to stop and stare at what is unclear or confusing – as long as we find joy in the journey, as the disciples in both readings eventually did [even though we don’t hear about it in the first reading]. It is here we discover the need to go deeper in our trust in Jesus’ promise not to ever leave us orphaned.
It is in these in-between moments we also realize we are never alone in facing any challenge that is before us. For through Jesus’ human form ascended into heaven, he is here present in word and sacrament. The Holy Spirit dwells within and among us. By God’s grace, may we have all that Saint Paul prayed for, for those who lived in Ephesus: May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe.
So, what do we do now? We listen, we follow, we partake of the one Bread and the one Cup, and we nurture our relationship with Him who is our life, our hope, and our salvation.