On May 13, we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension. When I think of all 20 mysteries of the Rosary, the one that most appeals to me is that of Christ ascending into heaven after the Resurrection.
I picture pushing the button to a rocket ship, rising above all humanity, heading for eternal glory in the heart of the Most Holy Trinity. All of us are on our return flight, and the destination is glorious. All of our human hungers and limitations qualify us for the infinite glory God has in store for us. The more our human limitations and sins get to us, the faster the rocket heads toward the answer for all human hunger — the infinite love of God.
In a sense, the Lord tells us in the readings that the fuel for this rocket ship is the power from on high, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit fuels our rocket ship, and this witness gives hope to others to experience great power and joy in traveling to the Most Holy Trinity. We want to help as many as possible to get on board and enjoy rising above human limitations and sins.
After that glitzy interpretation of the first reading, review the words of Jesus. He said to His disciples, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
While Jesus takes bodily leave of His disciples, He isn’t abandoning them, but tells them that the Holy Spirit will come upon them, and they will do the same things He has done.
He reassured them that His work would continue, and even speed up, when He and the Father send the Holy Spirit. “When He had said this, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen Him going into heaven.’” Thus ends Christ’s bodily presence with His disciples. The most exciting event, Pentecost, is on the horizon. Then they will see the ministry of Christ replicated in their own lives.
In the Gospel, we visit another version of the words Jesus had given to them prior to the Ascension. “Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be contemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’
“So then the Lord Jesus, after He spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”
These readings are very dramatic, fast-paced and action-packed. They are also filled with profound implications for each of us. We are participants in, and not spectators of, the events described.
We all have received the fullness of the Holy Spirit in Baptism and Confirmation. We are preparing for a renewal of that Holy Spirit in our lives with the coming feast of Pentecost.
Through prayer and the sacraments, each of us has experienced the effects of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Through the sacrament of reconciliation we have had our sins repeatedly forgiven. In the Holy Eucharist and in prayer, our spiritual lives continue to be renewed. As a consequence of this, our lives witness to others God’s goodness to ourselves.
You may not be aware of how you are a witness, but there are many, many people observing your life carefully. They may never come and ask you about the faith, but they want to know if this belief in Jesus is a real thing. They have a lot of hope but also a lot of doubts because of their own sinfulness. That is why they watch you so carefully.
They want to know how you relate faith to human weaknesses. They ask themselves the following questions: “Why do you go to church every Sunday? Why do you pray? Why do you go to confession on a regular basis? Why are you so kind and gracious when so many other people are so rude and self-seeking?”
You see, they have profound hungers within themselves and are seeking answers. Implicitly your actions are saying to them, “Why do you not hop on this rocket ship called Christianity for a return trip to glory?”
Keep living the faith you are living. You are Jesus’ witnesses by living your Catholic faith, even though you may not know those observing you. One thing is certain: If you don’t meet them on the Christian rocket ship to glory, you will meet them when they arrive! What a surprise is in store for you and for them.