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Ascension of Jesus

2012 May 21
by Gordon Reid

The men in white rebuked the witnesses for looking up into the sky when Jesus ascended into heaven. Why? Surely ┬áthat’s what any of us would have done.

The gospel writer was saying that any disciple of Jesus was wasting his time looking into space, but should be getting on with spreading the Good News about Jesus.

Too many churchmen spend their time fussing about the Liturgy or the Lectionary or the Hymnal, when they should be out on the streets demonstrating their support for the poor and needy, for those who have no access to medical help, for the people whose schools are a farce, for those who cannot find employment.

Jesus’s ascension is a poetic way of saying that he returned to full communion with his Father, which he voluntarily blocked off so that he could be be fully human. This means that he was hungry and thirsty, that he was tired and frustrated, that he had doubts about his vocation and about whether God even existed – none of that is sinful, but is the normal experience of all human beings.

But all his life, he preached that we must love our neighbors and our enemies. And, you know, sometimes they are the same people! We have to do what he would be doing in 2012 if he were here in the flesh. And indeed he is here in the flesh. You and I are “other Christs”. Though he has ascended into heaven, he is still with us through his Spirit which lives in us. So what we do as Christians is what our Lord would do. What a responsiblility!

We have to think of that next time we go to the polls, next time we look at our charitable giving, next time we divide our time up into our own pleasures and visiting the housebound and sick of our friends and families. If our life is carefree and without the need to look after others, there is something wrong with our faith. Jesus has not disappeared into the clouds;  he is watching every move we make.

Be afraid – be very afraid!

6 Responses leave one →
  1. Stacey permalink
    May 21, 2012

    “Too many churchmen spend their time fussing about the Liturgy or the Lectionary or the Hymnal, when they should be out on the streets demonstrating their support for the poor and needy, for those who have no access to medical help, for the people whose schools are a farce, for those who cannot find employment.”

    You are clearly a churchman who “gets it.” Every cleric and lay should tattoo these words on their brains.

  2. Robert McCormick permalink
    May 24, 2012

    Beautiful words. I suspect they hit a raw nerve with those who particularly struggle with “worshipping the worship.” As an Anglo-Catholic whose daily (professional) work involves adorning the liturgy with care and devotion–a task of great importance and, for me, passion/vocation–it is important to remember that the end goal is not whether or not the candles are lit in the correct order or the subdeacon is blessed properly, but our adoration of God and love of neighbor. Details are not unimportant, yet they must not obscure what we ultimately are about.

    • ambly permalink
      May 25, 2012

      We must never worship the worship as Robert says, but we must worship God in the very best way we are able – the “first and greatest commandment” suggests we cannot merely become social workers but must love and work for both God and our neighbor.

  3. Robert McCormick permalink
    May 28, 2012

    For me, I’d say the struggle is not so much “worshipping” the worship, but rather “needing” the liturgy to be perfect and always to go off without a hitch (I guess that’s a form of “worship”, though). I find this particularly difficult as my job is overseeing the musical end of such at a place with a very high liturgical/musical standard. So I constantly struggle to seek a balance between bringing my very best and expecting that of others, but being able to let go when inevitably something is less than perfect. I sometimes remind myself that it’s not like we are performing surgery; no one is going to die because a High Mass or Evensong is less than flawless. And also that if what I’m doing is pleasing to God and is feeding his people, then I’ve done my job, and that’s that.

    • Paul Emmons permalink
      June 6, 2012

      As another church musician, I agree that this is a great relief. There are so many ways in which music, escpecially group singing, is a model of the Christian life. This must be why the church has developed the art so highly. Surely one of these ways reflects Christ’s willingness to forgive seventy times seven! Our mistakes vanish into thin air in seconds (less than that in that usual American acoustic).

  4. Stephen permalink
    May 28, 2012

    I agree that seeing Christ in the Monstrance and failing to see him in a chronically depressed friend or lonely, widowed aunt is decidedly NOT what Our Lord would want from us! On the other hand, I am old enough to remember the 1970s when some young religious sisters I knew thought they and their fellow sisters should be out helping the poor when they weren’t in the classroom teaching. As one young nun who is a relative of mine put it “How many times can you scrub the floor and polish the silver?” As this kind of thinking spread throughout religious communities, convents and novitiates all but emptied. The trouble was many never returned to their convents and novitiates once they went out into the world to serve. I guess there has to be a balance. I think the teaching nuns were a crucial part of parish life in many places, and am sorry to see them all but gone from modern Catholic life.

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