Some evenings ago I was awaiting the start of one of my very few favourite television programmes. An advertisement urging me to purchase a rather swanky car was being screened....
The South African Catholic Bishops’ Conference decided that from 2016 the Solemnity of the Ascension will be transferred to the Sunday following. I am informed that the celebration of the Assumption will be transferred to the nearest Sunday.
(Of course there were, as always, a few ‘smart alecs’ who in 2015 anticipated the change and thus caused some confusion!)
So, this Sunday we have the scriptures allocated for
THE ASCENSION. Let us anchor our reflection on some words from THE FIRST READING [ACTS 1: 1 – 11]. These lines also form part of today’s ENTRANCE ANTIPHON ….. “Why do you stand looking into heaven? … (He)will return.” This is both a question and a challenge. Here is the main reason we have, during the Easter weeks, been trying to establish a deep and personal faith in the powerful presence of Jesus Christ in our ordinary, daily, lives.
In recent weeks I read something which was, at first glance, a strange thought but on reflection I found it to be enormously challenging:
the text you read is also reading you. “The text I am reading invites me to enter (it) … otherwise I am just skimming it with the surface of my eyes.” SO! “Why do you stand looking into heaven? … (He) will return.” What am I looking for? Who am I waiting for? Why am I looking ‘upwards’ instead of the reality around me and the challenges it presents? If I know who I am waiting for then I should be able to recall the lesson of the parable Jesus taught about the man going away to a distant country and entrusting some particular matters (“bags of gold“) to three different servants – “five, two and one” to each respectively. The translation I have quoted speaks of “the man putting his capital into their hands.” The scene is set at the time of his departure and is concluded after his return. The man EXPECTS the servants to involve themselves in not only ‘guarding’ his capital but of developing, growing, what has been entrusted to them.
Well, we do not need to be great scripture scholars to link this parable and an essential part of the lesson taught by the Ascension. “Why do you stand looking into heaven? … (He) will return.”
TODAY’S GOSPEL [LUKE 24: 46 – 53] contains a basic ‘follow-up’ when it records that Jesus tells us: “you are witnesses to these things.” Surely this is much the same message as the man entrusting his capital to his servants?!
We Christians must avoid adopting a very tempting and comfortable position as parasites – even if good, loyal, faithful and helpful parasites. Parasites indeed if we stand around looking into heaven and ‘feeding’ off what the Lord has done for us while ignoring his commission that we are
to grow and develop what he has left behind. In TODAY’S EXTRACT [EPHESIANS 1: 17 – 23] Saint Paul speaks of the “immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe.” This is the reason why our reading from Acts states “you shall receive power … you shall be my witnesses … to the end of the earth.” Believe me when I say that in 2016 there still remains plenty of the earth which has need of receiving our witness.
Our witness requires that Jesus’ story needs to known by me in some sort of
PERSONAL way. We must not confuse the two realities of knowing the facts and knowing the personal story (of which I have become a PART). The STORY of Jesus must continue to live into the present, and does so by my WITNESS – a witness which is personal. Even an agnostic can know the facts – but not the story.
A husband or wife may care for a frail and sick spouse for a year or more, accompany him / her to death through long months of pain and suffering; holding hands and sharing memories. I may know well all these facts but I do not their story. I will never know that story unless I get inside it and allow
the text of their story to read me.
Jesus story must, like King Lear’s petition
, “sweeten my imagination.”