Easter Ascension - Year B - 2015
I've had moments like that, haven’t you? When you just kind of find yourself standing there, with your hands in your pockets, staring off into space, trying to process what has just happened and not quite sure what to do or where to go next, even if the answer is blatantly obvious to everyone else? When I walked out of the hospital room seconds after my grandmother died. When I loaded the last box into the car after packing up to leave the seminary where I’d prayed and studied for six years – or, for that matter, when I finally unloaded many of those same boxes into the rectory on Horton Street in Grayson almost a year ago.
Sometimes these moments come at major milestones in our lives – graduations, moving from one place or moving to another, the last day at a job we've loved and worked at for many years. Sometimes these are moments of great joy and celebration – like the moment of great spiritual consolation and peace I felt when I came back over here to lock up the Church after our amazing 50th Anniversary celebration last October. Staring at your precious new baby asleep for the first time in her crib at home. Those first few quiet moments in the car as two new spouses drive away from the reception. Sometimes these very unsettling moments leading into the great unknown – like those first few minutes after learning your job has been eliminated, or right after hearing of the untimely or accidental death of a friend.
We've all had moments like that, haven’t we? When we find ourselves sort of standing there, with our hands in our pockets, staring off into space, trying to process what has just happened and not quite sure what to do or where to go next. That’s where we find the Apostles today as we celebrate the Ascension of Christ into heaven. Staring intently at the sky, trying to figure out what in the world had just happened, and what in the world they were supposed to do next. When along comes these two men dressed in white garments – possibly angels – who ask the pertinent question: ‘Why are you standing here staring up at the sky?’ The implication is clear: OK friends – don’t just stand here with your hands in your pockets staring off into space – He’s left you work to do, and He’s going to be coming back – so its time to go get busy. Matthew and Mark make this moment even clearer in their Gospels, recording the specific instruction Jesus leaves to them: Go into all the world, spread the Good News, baptize and bring into the community of faith all those who will hear and receive the salvation Jesus has won for us.
Don’t just stand there – go – get busy – there’s work to be done. As we draw to a close our weeks of celebration of the joy and new life of Easter, lest we find ourselves wondering where we should go and what we should do next, the Church reminds us today that the completion of Easter – the fulfillment of Easter – is a command to Go.
You know – we end every Mass that way too. In fact, the whole Mass can be thought of as a Sending. In somewhere around 60 minutes on Sundays, we follow the major movements of the Christian story that lead us to right where we are today at the Ascension. We are gathered together as a people of God in the Introductory Rites. We hear the message of God’s eternal love for humanity even through our mistakes in the Liturgy of the Word that leads to the full manifestation of God’s revelation in the person of Jesus Christ. In response to God having made a way for us to return to relationship with Him, we worship Him in the only acceptable way at the altar in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, offering Him the only thing we have worthy of His love – Jesus Christ Himself, broken for our sake – the same way that Jesus offered Himself up to the Father on our behalf in His own passion and death. And when all that’s said and done, we are sent to share it all with the whole world – Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord – Go, Glorifying the Lord by your Life. Just like when it was all said and done, and Jesus had accomplished what He’d set out to do out of love for the Father and for us, He sent His apostles saying, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.’
I guess the question today is this – when this Mass is over today – what are you doing…where are you going? Are we standing around with our hands in our pockets wondering where to go or what to do next? Are we just fading back into what we think of as our ‘real’ lives – making money, pursuing our careers, chasing our dreams, living our life the way we want to live it now that our Sunday obligation is over? Or are we going? Going with purpose – living our lives as a fulfillment of the command left by the One who lived His life to save us from ourselves and love us for all eternity? We know what the apostles did. They went forth and preached everywhere.
Christians – why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going up into heaven. So while there is still time, we must do as He asked and go – go into all the world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.