Wednesday, May 24, 2017

ASCENSION


GO MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS.
May 28th, 2017, Ascension Day, Year A.  Acts 1:1-11; Matthew 28:16-20.

AIM:  To show the universality of Christ’s missionary call, and its implications for daily life.

 

“When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted." Those doubts show that the first followers of Jesus Christ were not credulous peasants, ready to believe anything. Like many of us, they were often skeptical, and often doubted. The gospel accounts of Jesus’ resurrection appearances all mention those doubts. The most persistent doubter, as you will remember, was the apostle Thomas who responded to reports that the Lord was risen: "I will never believe it without probing the nail prints in his hands, without putting my finger in the nail marks and my hand into his side" (John 20:25).

Until its climactic moment, Christ‘s ascension was an appearance of the risen Lord like all the others. It was only to be expected that on this occasion, as on those which had preceded it, his disciples doubted. What is remarkable is not their doubts, but the fact that Jesus ignores them. “Go ... make disciples of all nations," he charges them, “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all I have commanded you.”

That charge is not just long ago and far away. Jesus gives us the same command today. Now, as then, he issues this command to all his friends, fervent believers and skeptical doubters alike. We may think that before we can become Jesus’ messengers we must first overcome all our doubts and hesitations. We must be strong in faith, able to stand on our own feet. That is not true! Jesus’ first messengers and missionaries were often weak in faith.  That has remained true in every age. It is true today.

Jesus summons us to his missionary service just as we are: weak in faith, encumbered with doubts, hesitations, faults, and sins. He does not send us as his messengers to an unbelieving and spiritually hungry world because we are fit for the task. Rather he calls us to make us fit. It is in sharing with others the faith that is in us, that our own faith is deepened and strengthened.

Few of us are called to preach sermons about Jesus Christ. But every one of us is called, and in baptism and confirmation commissioned, to proclaim and bear witness to him through the testimony of daily living.  Here is what the bishops of the whole world said about this call at the Second Vatican Council. 

[The laity] work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven ... [making] Christ known to others especially by the testimony of a life resplendent in faith, hope, and charity. [Lumen gentium, 31]

The laity are called in a special way to make the Church present and operative in those places and circumstances where only through them can it become the salt of the earth. [33]   

There are people here in our parish who are doing those things every day. Are you? One day the Lord will examine us about how we have responded to the call to be his messengers to others. Here, ahead of time, are some of the questions in that examination. They came to me years ago on an e-mail. I no longer know the sender.

God won't ask what kind of car you drove; he'll ask how many people you drove who didn't have transportation. 

God won't ask the square footage of your house; he'll ask how many people you welcomed into your home. 

God won't ask about the clothes you had in your closet; he'll ask how many you helped to clothe.

God won't ask what your highest salary was; he'll ask if you cut corners to obtain it.

God won't ask what your job title was; he'll ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.

God won't ask how many friends you had; he'll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.

God won't ask in what neighborhood you lived; he'll ask how you treated your neighbors.

God won't ask about the color of your skin; he'll ask about the content of your character.

The testimony of deeds before words is powerful. You probably know the saying: “What you are speaks so loud that I can’t hear what you say.” Words are cheap and our world is inundated by words. People today are more impressed by deeds than by words.

Bearing witness to Jesus Christ in daily life is difficult. If you doubt that, perhaps that is because you have never seriously tried it for any extended period of time. With our own resources alone, the task is impossible. But we are not alone. We have an unseen companion in the missionary task: the same divine master and Lord who is saying to us right now, as he said to that little band of weak sinners and doubters on a Galilean hilltop two thousand years ago:

“Behold I am with you always, until the end of the age.”