Jesus has returned to Heaven: Mission Accomplished.
This mission, what he did, applies to each one of us, to each of our various callings and stations in life.
Jesus has repaired our human nature. It was fallen; now it is upright. It was in the darkness; now it is in the sunlight. It was injured and broken; now it is healed.
Jesus makes it possible for us to live a good life, as a person with full human dignity, and He gives us the strength we need to fulfill our duties. In this world, there will always be temptations and obstacles to contend with. But, with God’s help, we can live the Christian life well in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.
Jesus shines his light into the darkness. The vine gives abundant life and vitality to all the branches. The love of Christ urges us forward. The promises of Christ help us to overcome our fear of facing challenges.
Jesus does not abandon us. He had to leave us physically so that he could be everywhere sacramentally. When he walked among us, he was confined to Israel and Judea. Now, through the sacramental system which he established, he is able to be present all over the world. Think of all the churches in which he is present on this Sunday morning throughout the world.
The entire Holy Trinity is involved with us. Jesus said that he came to do the will of the Father and that all that Jesus taught us came from the Father. Now Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, who issues forth from both the Father and the Son, to help us comprehend the message of God. The Holy Spirit makes us ready to receive the deeper meaning, the fuller meaning of Jesus’ words.
The Word of God is very rich and profound. We will never exhaust its meaning; we will never fully probe the depths of its content. God wants you and me to come closer to Him, to know Him better, to experience his love and friendship. That is the assignment of the Holy Spirit.
What does Jesus want from us? He accomplished his mission for us. Now, what are we called to do? What does He expect from us?
Remember, this Solemnity of the Ascension is an essential part of God’s plan for our deliverance, for our salvation, for our daily lives as disciples of Christ.
Jesus commanded the apostles and the disciples to bring his Good News to Judea, then Samaria, and then to the ends of the Earth. That is his command to you and me. We have seen the light. We have heard the truth. We have witnessed during Holy Week the unmistakable signs of what Jesus was willing to do for us, to accomplish our salvation.
Now we too are sent. Sometimes we think that doing apostolic work is only for a chosen few, for the folks like SPO, FOCUS, C&L, religious orders or ordained priests. These folks take their commission to spread the Gospel very seriously. But all of us have been commissioned, sent, entrusted with the mission.
How so? What shape does this take in our world, in our times, in this culture?
Each of us is called, by God, to bring the values of the Gospel into the world in which we live. The laity is 99.9% of the Church, so the lion’s share of the work falls upon them. Each one of us has the task to integrate our Faith into our lives, into our work, into our talents and competencies. Are you an auto mechanic? Then be a competent mechanic, and bring with you all the qualities of the person, Jesus. Are you a citizen, a teacher, a farmer, a businessman, a medical person, or a politician? Then develop your competency, and integrate the Faith deeply and comprehensively into your competency. Let your Faith give direction and purpose to your work. Don’t restrict your service just to the material needs of the people you serve. Strive to assist the higher, spiritual and moral, needs of the people you serve.
In this country, we are fortunate to have religious freedom. We don’t have to contend with the repressions found in China, North Korea and in the Muslim countries where Christians are openly persecuted. We have our own, more subtle, persecutions to battle. We must content with secularism, with exaggerated autonomy – doing things always my way – with exaggerated freedom which accepts no restrictions, and with a tendency to push our burdens on big brother, or on future generations by our growing national debt.
Jesus met resistance when he proclaimed God’s plan for building a just society. God’s ways are not fallen man’s ways. The apostles and early disciples were given a daunting, unnerving, task – to bring God’s message to all the world (“teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” Mt 28:29). Here they were: few in number, persecuted by Jewish leaders, misunderstood by the Romans and resisted by the Pagans. Did they need encouragement? Did they know what it means to have your Faith challenged? But they obeyed Jesus. They accepted the gifts and strength of the Holy Spirit. They knew what their purpose in life was. They started to look for ways to evangelize, to share with others what they had found. And they were very successful.
It is the same with you and me. We are not to leave our society the way we find it and be digested by it. By our presence, our faith, and our service, we are to make our society better. We bring our values and moral principles with us into the working world, into the public square. Like any other group in a democracy, we have a right, and a duty, to bring our well thought-out positions and principles into the public discussion where public policy is being shaped, and where the culture is being formed. We can demonstrate that outlawing abortion will not endanger women. The best gift we can give to our country is to be good Catholics.
At a Catholic college, like Benedictine College, the aspiration and expectation is that the students here are being prepared to serve society, to carry the heavier burdens of society. They are equipped with their special competencies, into which they have integrated their Faith. We want our graduates, not to be swallowed up by society, but to be a leaven, to be an agent of change for the better. Will they meet some opposition and challenges? You bet. And the same dynamic applies to you and to me.
Jesus has ascended into heaven where he has been reinstated with his full sovereignty as the Son of God. He has accomplished his mission. Now he is watching us, and waiting. He wants us to take full advantage of his victory over sin, evil and death, and to bring that victory to everything we do. He has a plan, a calling, for each one of us to accomplish. Now, it is our turn to perform.