Ascension of the Lord       

            What is the difference between a wiseman and Jesus? A wiseman tells us what is good and tells us how to do it. Whereas Jesus takes us by the hand and does it with us.

            Confucius, Aristotle, and Plato were very wise, and they gave us good advice and good directions. But they did not take us, or the people of their time, by the hand and do it with us.

            This is what Jesus does. He does not only tell us what is good, he does it with us. He does not only give us advice how to be good, he gives us power to be good. He does not only show us a way to be good, as he said, he is the Way – to real goodness. Just hold the hand of Jesus. Just say “Yes” to Jesus. And Jesus working with us through the Holy Spirit will empower us to do God’s will.

            We celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. Today’s gospel reading tells us that but before ascending into heaven and taking his seat at the right hand of God, Jesus commissions his disciples, including us – instructing us: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” And the Lord Jesus also assures us that he would work with us. The gospel says, “The Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”

            In today’s first reading (from the Acts of the Apostles), Jesus says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Again, the Lord does not only tell us what to do – he does not only commission us – he also enables us to do our mission. He does not only order us, he also empowers us to proclaim the Gospel and become good news ourselves.

            Do we hold on to this truth that the Lord empowers us for mission? Do we really believe that the Lord is accompanying us, that he is working with us and confirming our works, as we proclaim the Good News of God’s love? But I think the more basic issue that we must honestly face is: Do we acknowledge, accept and live by the truth that we are sent, we are commissioned? Do we live our lives proclaiming the Good News and becoming good news to others?

            We have to see ourselves as Christ’s mission partners, committed to carrying on his saving mission. We must stop treating the Lord merely as our personal helper, expected to work for us as we pursue our personal ambition, hardly thinking of the mission he entrusted to each of us. We should start taking our being commissioned more seriously, start working for God and building his Kingdom, start bringing the Good News and becoming good news to others. We must always remember this: The Lord who commissions us is also the Lord who gives us the grace that enables us to personally and actively share in his life and mission.

            Yes, the Lord orders us to go into the whole world; but at the same time, he empowers us to carry on this mission. In the midst of this pandemic and the various crises it has caused, each of us has to find the mission he or she must perform. “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel.” We are to go out of ourselves, get out of comfort zones, and be the good news the world needs today. The Lord is sending us to tell the world of his love, and he is enabling us to manifest this love through practical charity and works of mercy. He is sending us to our needy sisters and brothers, and he is equipping us to be able to respond to their needs in positive terms, effective ways and tangible manners. He is sending us to our neighborhood and community to minister and he is giving us the resources – time, talent, and treasure – to be shared generously for the common good.

            Let us always remember this: The Lord who commissions us is also the Lord who gives us the grace we need to be able to perform and fulfill our mission.

            Let us end with a prayer: Lord Jesus, Your Ascension does not make You absent. It makes You present in a new way. You are present in the community of disciples who carry on Your saving mission. Lord, today You have no hands on earth but ours, no hands but ours, no feet but ours. Ours are the eyes through which You are to look out to the world with compassion. Ours are the feet with which You are to go out doing good. Ours are the hands with which You are to bless and heal now. Lord, help us to make You more visible and audible to the people around us. Amen.      

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