Near the end of this week, you will receive our newsletter, The Invitation, either in the mail or through an e-mail. Included will be a nomination form for a trustee and three Pastoral Council members. Please watch for this form and prayerfully nominate those whom you think would be good leaders for our community. Thank you.
St. Luke wrote two books in the New Testament, both addressed to “Theophilus,” which means “one who loves God.” The first is his Gospel, which he says he wrote “so that you may realize the certainty of the teachings you have received.” The second is the Acts of the Apostles, the beginning of which is our first reading for the feast today, the Ascension of the Lord. In this reading, Jesus tells His disciples to wait in Jerusalem “to be baptized with the Holy Spirit” and then he departs, ascending into heaven.
There are a couple details that I think are significant. First, in Luke’s account, the last words of a disciple before Jesus ascends are to ask about restoring the kingdom of Israel. They still didn’t get it; they needed the gift of the Holy Spirit to be able to understand what kind of Messiah Jesus was and to be set on fire as disciples, bringing the Good News to the world.
Second, we are told two men dressed in white were suddenly there beside them, asking “why are you standing there looking at the sky?” My interpretation is that they were saying to the disciples (which includes us), “stop looking after the Jesus who walked with you, He is gone; move on to the next phase of the story.”
And Luke’s second book, the Acts of the Apostles, presents the next phase of the story: the Holy Spirit comes and the disciples change from fearful people locked in a safe room to fearless proclaimers of the Good News, no matter the dangers or challenges. The Acts of the Apostles is a chronical of those early missionary efforts.
What is the message to us?
If Jesus had stayed, the focus of the disciples would have been on Him. Once He had ascended, His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, could descend upon them and set them on fire. Their focus was outward, sharing the Good News with the world.
We have received the gift of His Spirit, a gift to help us fulfil our baptismal promise to bring Christ to others. If we come to church, worship God, and leave it at that, I think the two men dressed in white would ask us the same question, “why are you standing there looking at the sky?” We have been given the Spirit to help us move to the next phase of our story, that is, sharing the Good News with others by word and example.
It can be more comfortable to come to Mass, worship God, and feel like we have fulfilled our obligations. But we are called to more. The Mass and time with the Lord are crucial, but our religious observance needs to move us out of ourselves toward others, sharing the Good News we have received.
In this last week before we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, I invite us to reflect on our mission to be disciples, asking ourselves how we can do better at bringing the Good News to others. Then, as we celebrate Pentecost, we can ask the Spirit to help us do it!
And let us support each other in prayer.