Easter Ascension Yr B (2018)
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville
So…the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven…but they went forth and preached everywhere. They went forth and preached everywhere. Can that be said of us? A hundred years from now when someone is writing the Acts of the Disciples of Ss. Peter & Paul Church what will they say?
They’ll say we depart – because that happens. Without fail. Each week we are sent – just like Jesus sent the apostles when He ascended into heaven. We use almost the same words. Jesus said, “Go and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” We say, “Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.” So maybe the Acts of the Disciples of Ss. Peter & Paul Church will start with something like this: The disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ gathered together in Danville and Boyle County since 1798 – and each time they gathered to celebrate the holy sacrifice of the Mass, they were sent just as the Lord Jesus had sent his disciples. With great joy, they stood and sung songs and departed. And… And…what comes next? When they tell our story what will they say?
I love how Sacred Scripture captures our human nature that hasn’t changed much in the last 2,000 years. There they were, all gathered there – like we’re gathered here. In the last several weeks they’d been shaken to the core. Every one of them had in one way or another given themselves completely to the Lord Jesus – coming to believe that He was, indeed, the Messiah of God, the Christ – the Anointed One – the one who came into the world to redeem us, to restore us to relationship with God. And then they’d watched as that all seemed to be torn down and taken away on the Cross. Still reeling from having their faith shaken, Jesus shows up again. The tomb is empty! Jesus is risen! Over the next weeks they come to believe an even more important truth: by dying Jesus destroyed our death, by rising again, He restored us to eternal life. Step by step Jesus leads them to greater faith and then brings them to the final step that makes faith real and whole and complete: the mission!
We’ve traveled with them through it all: through the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. We’ve encountered the Risen Lord inviting us to deeper faith, a faith that reveals we’re aimed for something more than this life – that we’re destined to be saints, each and every one of us, destined for eternity with Christ in the joy and peace of heaven. And here we stand with the apostles at the Ascension…maybe we find ourselves feeling like they felt…maybe we find ourselves doing what they did. Standing there…wondering what to do next…
As they were looking on, He was lifted up and taken from their sight…While they were looking intently at the sky, two men dressed in white suddenly appeared and said, “Uh – excuse me…why are you standing there looking up at the sky?!?! Didn’t you hear what He just said…why are you standing around looking up at the sky? He’s coming back – don’t you worry about that. He’ll be back…but until then, there’s work to do. Why are you standing here looking up at the sky? Jesus said, ‘Go and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.’ So…uh…don’t just stand here…GO! GO! Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!
Life can leave us standing around with our hands in our pockets staring up at the sky sometimes. Sometimes out of shock or wonder – sometimes because we literally don’t know what to do next. If we’re not careful, sometimes we just go back to normal. We wander out of Church, grab some lunch, catch the game, head to the park or cut the grass. We finish our college enrollment papers and study for that last final or get ready for work on Monday. Those aren’t bad things. But…what about our commission from Jesus?
Vatican II reminded us whose job it is to go and announce the Gospel of the Lord. We like Vatican II – we talk about it all the time. But we can’t pick and choose what makes us comfortable or helps us win an agrument. We’ve got to embrace it all. “Since they have an active role to play in the whole life of the Church, [laypersons] are not only bound to penetrate the world with a Christian spirit, but are also called to witness to Christ in all things in the midst of human society.” (Gaudium et Spes, par. 43) In other words…Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord. “All the laity…have the exalted duty of working for the ever greater spread of the divine plan of salvation to all [peoples]…all over the earth.” (Lumen Gentium, par. 33) In other words…Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord. Every single one of us in this Church today share in equal measure the command and commission of Christ.
The question is - what are we doing with that commission? Today, as we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, those two witnesses call to us, too. Tugging on our sleeves as we stare up at the sky. “People of Ss. Peter & Paul…why are you sitting there looking at the sky? Why are you departing from here wandering through life on autopilot? This Jesus who comes to you in the Eucharist…this same Jesus will return in His resurrected body to this Earth. Before He ascended, He bid you GO – Go into all the world preaching the Gospel. Don’t just sit there – don’t just wander back to life as usual after Mass – GO! Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord.”
A hundred years from now when someone is writing the Acts of the Disciples of Ss. Peter & Paul Church what will they say? If we are to live lives worthy of being called Christian, let us live like those who first celebrated the Ascension. Let them say of us…they went forth and preached Jesus Christ everywhere.
Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!