Once upon a time, Father Mac finds three little kids sitting on a curb playing hooky from school. “Don’t you want to go to heaven?” he admonishes them. “I sure do,” two of the girls answer, but the third replies, “No sir.” “What’s the matter? You mean you don’t want to go to heaven when you die?” “Oh, when I die!” exclaims the youngster. “Of course I do, when I die. I thought you were getting up a crowd to go now.”
The ascension of our Lord completes the passion, death and resurrection of the Christ. Christ ascends on high bringing our human nature with him. As he ascends to heaven Jesus brings both his humanity and his divinity into the heavenly realm for the first time. What does this mean for us today?
Ascend…I suggest that we ascend also!
“In my first account, Theophilus…,” I told you about how Jesus ascends on high, how he is taken up, how he rises above everything else. This is the true meaning of the solemnity of the Ascension. The problem is…we like it here…we want position. Like the disciples who gawk at the sky, we think that we are in charge. And, that is not how God directs the kingdom.
We need to ascend but we have no idea how to do it because we are so earthly bound. Jesus tells us to drive out demons. But we still see and hear racism and sexism and homophobia in our country and in our church. Jesus tells us to speak entirely new languages and we still do not know the meaning of adaption and change. Jesus says that poison and serpents will not harm us but are those in the curia in Rome just waiting for Pope Francis to die so that they can continue business as usual?
In the words of St. Paul, we need wisdom and revelation to know Christ. God gives us all sorts of measures of grace. I may be an apostle, but you may be a prophet. I may be an evangelist but you may be a teacher. I may be a pastor but you may be a healer. This includes both women and men. There is only ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism and ONE God of all. To illustrate: while on sabbatical in 2005 at Harvard Divinity School, I had the privilege to hear the Dean Emeritus, the Lutheran Bishop, Krister Stendahl speak on the ministry of St. Paul. In his talk he stated that if St. Paul lectured us today he would begin by stating that he would be against women and others in church leadership. Then Stendahl added, “But St. Paul would then conclude with, ‘Here there is no male or female, no Jew or Greek. Christ is all in all. There is only ONE Lord and only ONE Faith. And the only thing that matters is LOVE.’“
As we approach the Eucharist, may we remember the words of St. Teresa of Avila: “Christ has no body now on earth, but yours, no hands but yours, no feet but yours; yours are the eyes through which we look out for Christ’s compassion to the world, yours are the feet with which he is to go about doing good, and yours are the hands with which he is to bless us now.”
I suggest that we ascend today!