In Mark’s gospel, before Jesus ascends, he tells them, very simply, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” He urges them to baptize, to teach, to carry on the work that he has begun. But his first direction is clear: “Go.” And the reading from Acts challenges them. “Men and women of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” There was work to be done. They left the mountain, went into the city, and prepared for the phenomenal mission that was about to start – the spreading of the gospel to every corner of the world.
Christ’s words to his apostles are words to all of us. “Go.” The world will not be converted on a mountaintop. It will happen in the streets, in offices and private homes, in books and newspapers and media of all kinds. It needs to be lived in the world. And I invite one of our parish young adult leaders to share with us how we do all that at Christ Our Hope Church. Claire Bankson has been with the parish from the beginning. She knows we need to leave this church to work for the vision and mission of Christ Our Hope in downtown Seattle.
Thank you Fr. Paul.
I’m honored to be here today. As parishioners of Christ Our Hope for the past 8 years, my husband Kyle and I have been blessed to experience the sacraments of baptism, marriage and anointing of the sick here in our beautiful sanctuary. We choose to volunteer our time in liturgical ministries as we attend mass – you may see Kyle as Sacristan and Altar Server and myself as a Eucharistic Minister or announcer – but we are also called to live our faith outside of these four walls. Why? That is what we heard in today’s readings.
Like Father Paul told us during Easter this year, “On most days, we experience not the unbearable misery of Good Friday nor the immeasurable joy of Easter Sunday. Like the disciples, we wait. Most of our lives are spent in what one might call Holy Saturday.” Waiting in traffic, waiting for test results, waiting to give birth, waiting for children to come home, waiting for children to finally leave home!
The Ascension we celebrate today, on our parish’s feast day, is so important because 1) we believe, as we repeat every Sunday, “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father” and 2) because Jesus with his last words to us has told us how to wait. Grace will be given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift for we are meant to be Jesus’s witnesses to the ends of the earth.
Today I choose to experience the immeasurable joy of the Ascension with Christ Our Hope. But over the past 8 years I have also chosen to spend the unbearable miseries of my Good Fridays with Christ Our Hope and my Holy Saturdays waiting with Christ Our Hope.
Kyle and I wait as stewards of Christ’s gifts. Christ Our Hope waits by participating as a parish in the Annual Catholic Appeal. Our support for the ACA funds over 60 ministries and services, bringing our support – perhaps not to the ends of the earth but at least – from the Olympic Peninsula to Snoqualmie Pass, from British Columbia to Oregon. And the ACA comes back to us here at the Josephinum where we have plans for a rooftop garden patio. We’ll hear more details about that next week.
In every reading today we heard Jesus ascend into heaven. If we place ourselves with the disciples we feel awe, loss, joy, uncertainty, amazement and perhaps even anxiety. We are looking at the sky. We are looking at the clouds. Jesus has gone beyond our sight. We are alone.
And then two men dressed in white garments are suddenly standing next to us. They say “why are you standing there looking at the sky?” We think well where else would be looking? Jesus has ascended!
But perhaps these two men are here with us now to remind us. Perhaps their presence is enough to get us past the clouds and the glamour and the loss. Perhaps we will remember the last words Jesus spoke to us.
Jesus had just told us we will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon us. We will be Jesus’s witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth.
Some of us will be apostles, some prophets, other evangelists, pastors, teachers. Mothers and fathers too. But none of these gifts will come to fruition if we stay, standing there, looking at the sky. We cannot be witnesses to the ends of the earth if we do not move from the glorious sight we saw. There is no point in waiting right there, watching the sky, for Jesus to return from his ascension into heaven.
I wait by volunteering with our communications at Christ Our Hope – with our facebook, with the weekly bulletin you’ll get as you leave, with staff needs and website updates. I wait by joining in fellowship, welcoming new faces, supporting outreach ministries and living my faith outside these four walls every day. When I give to Christ Our Hope I am not alone. I am a witness. I am on my way to the ends of the earth. Jesus has ascended, yes. but he will also come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.
Because as Catholics we know our lives are stitched together with unbearable miseries and immeasurable joys, but it is what we do as we wait which makes us Jesus’s witnesses to the ends of the earth.
How will we fulfill that work today? How will we heed Christ’s order to “go?” Don’t stay too long on the mountain. The work of the church is waiting to be spread outside these doors through the Annual Catholic Appeal and the mission of Christ Our Hope. Sooner or later, we all must turn our eyes from the heavens, and direct them to the earth, and walk back into the world. Sooner or later, we have to go and make disciples of all nations. There is no better time than now. Thank you for your generous gifts of time, talent, and treasure.
Paul A. Magnano