Today we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord; this coming Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Spirit: Pentecost. Let’s look at the relationship between these two feasts.
Our first reading is the first eleven verses of the Acts of the Apostles, dealing with the time between the Resurrection and when Jesus was “taken up.” We read, When they had gathered together they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" The apostles STILL didn’t understand what kind of Messiah Jesus was, that he was NOT going to be a warrior king who would make them #1 in the world. Despite all that Jesus said and did, despite His death and resurrection, they couldn’t understand.
Perhaps this is why Jesus had to ascend, why He had to go away: if He had stayed around, He would have been the focus, His followers would not have understood. But once He went away and sent the Spirit on His followers, they understood the message and had the courage to "be [His] witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Or, as we hear in the Gospel, to Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.
That is the task of every Christian, accepted in Baptism: to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world. It is not enough for us to pray and to come to Mass on Sunday. Those things are indispensable, but they need to have the effect of strengthening us for outreach, for service, for bringing the Good News to others. If not, we are missing the point of Jesus’ final mandate: Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Fortunately, we are not alone in trying to do this: Jesus has given us the gift of His Spirit, as He did to the first disciples.
As I shared in The Invitation last week, we as a parish are making deliberate efforts to grow as disciples. I ask each of us to be open to the challenge of sharing more of our time and talent with the community, so that we can better fulfill the great mandate of going out into the whole world. Let us thank the Spirit who guides and sustains us in our efforts and let us support each other with our prayers!
-- Paul James Portland, SDS