Our lives are full of "transitions." We are always moving from one relatively comfortable place to a new and unfamiliar place. Graduating, getting married, having a baby, starting a new job, facing new responsibilities, moving into a new home, facing the death of a loved one, recovering from the breakup of a relationship, beginning to see a therapist, recovering from a heart attack, living with cancer, a new Pope for our Church- all of these, and many more personal examples we know in our experience, are transitions. They take us from what we know, into the unknown. They present us with a new mission, a new orientation, a new challenge, a new moment in our vocation, a new part of living our baptism into Jesus.
Today we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven. It is the feast of transition. In Luke's account, in the Acts of the Apostles, the very last words of Jesus to us are "you will be my witnesses ... to the ends of the earth." Like the first disciples who heard those words, our transitional growth is from being tentative, afraid, anxious followers to being those who have received "power" when the Holy Spirit "comes upon" us. Our mission is to replace Jesus in this world. The power of his Holy Spirit remains with us, but we are his "witnesses" in this world. The Greek word Luke uses here is "martures." We are to be his "martyrs" - giving witness, giving evidence of our faith, with the commitment of our lives.
But times of transition are difficult. We often cling to what we know, and are afraid of what we don't know. It's called a time of "transition" because we are "in between." We are usually still longing for something that we must leave behind, some distinct loss. What is before us offers new challenges we haven't gotten good at yet.
So often we feel "power-less," quite impotent and insecure, on so many levels. We are not able to do so much, let alone be a witness of Jesus. It is too often why we cover-up our fear and assert ourselves, in acts of power or control or aggression. We become "counter-witnesses" - in effect, saying: "the power of Jesus' Spirit isn't here!" Embarrassment at our powerless-ness or our "in-apt-itude" need not lead us into discouragement or aggressivity in our dealings with our loved ones and others. Jesus invites us to long for, to deeply desire, the power of his Spirit. Only that power can help us and heal us. The Holy Spirit is a spirit of comfort [cum - forte: with strength], to strengthen us in a deeply spiritual way.
On this day of the Ascension of our Lord, which introduces this time of transition to our life in the Spirit, our life of mission, let us express our desire for a renewal of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Let us imagine the healing presence of the Spirit in each of our relationships. This is where we will begin to witness to Jesus. Let us imagine how we can die to ourselves in our key relationships. From there, our witnessing can begin to go out "to the ends of the earth."
If we are able to celebrate in community today, let's prepare by not looking up into heaven. Let's imagine ourselves "on a mission," as we get dressed today. As we walk into church, let's feel the power of letting the Spirit "assemble" us there and "animate" us for mission. And, let us lift up our hearts, because it is right for us to give God thanks and praise. And with a renewed desire to celebrate the upcoming feast of Pentecost, let us walk out of that church ready to begin our mission at home, in our faith communities, and with our relatives and friends.
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