The Ascension of the Lord 130518
Each weekend when we gather for Mass we proclaim the Creed, our universal profession of faith. As one sentence follows the next, the phrase 'He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father’ trips off the tongue, sometimes without giving it much thought. Yet today, as we celebrate the Ascension, it should really claim our focus.
The Crucifixion and Resurrection of our Lord, and the subsequent coming of the Holy Spirit, these we talk about a great deal, and not just during Lent, Easter and Pentecost. The Ascension is much less mentioned, which is a shame because it is both an ending and a beginning. The physical appearances of Jesus are at an end; his revelation of the “good news” is complete; the promise of the Messiah is fulfilled. Now begins the work of the disciples to teach what they have learned and to share what they have witnessed.
From that rag tag collection of fishermen, tax collectors and peasants the Good News has been proclaimed and the responsibility for its continued proclamation is entrusted to Christ’s disciples of every time and every place. This is the sacred responsibility that, today, all of us here at Kangaroo Point East Brisbane recommits to.
If you listen carefully today you will notice that, just before his Ascension, Jesus gives a last command: ‘go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel’. That sounds challenging and dramatic. And then he adds a strange list of things that will characterise believers who obey this command: ‘they will drive out demons, speak new languages, handle snakes safely, drink deadly things without harm, and heal the sick by the laying on of hands’.
I always thought that list was strange and a little out of place, until I reflected on my own experience of going to the West Indies. Before I left I received plenty of advice; don’t drink the water, be cautious of the street food and double check the hygiene, watch out for mosquitoes and dengue fever. While there were no snakes on my little island there were plenty of scorpions which could give a nasty sting!
So when you think about the things on Christ’s list they are simply the things that any person might worry about if they were travelling to unknown or dangerous places. The point is, don’t use them as an excuse for not going!
If we are commissioned to go out to the whole world it necessarily means moving beyond our safe little worlds into places and situations which test our nerves, compassion and courage. Further, to go out to the whole world need not mean to travel far, perhaps simply across a neighbour’s fence, a classmate’s lunchbox, a work colleague’s desk or a family member’s telephone.
Whatever roads the journey of faith takes us on this week we are reassured, on this Feast of the Ascension, that the care of the Lord encompasses those who travel in his service.
Fr Peter Brannelly