Today’s liturgy, for those who celebrate Ascension on Sunday
before Pentecost, invites us to reflect not so much on the Lordship
of Christ but the practical questions of where, when, and perhaps
how we spread the Good News of salvation among our neighbors.
Jesus tells us that for “a little while” he will be
separated from his companions and disciples. It’s possible
that “little while” described the time between his Ascension
to the Father and the outpouring of the Spirit – certainly
it has been understood in that way by many theologians in the Church’s
history. But it could also be understood to be the “little
while” between the so-called “already and not yet”
of the coming and fulfillment of the Kingdom – or that time
between the outpouring of the Spirit and the culmination of the
Kingdom in Jesus’ glorious return. If this latter sense is
the meaning for Jesus’ saying then we are still in that “little
while” – which for us, listening to the Lord, with human
ears, definitely smacks of understatement. Perhaps it is not given
to us to know how long a “little while” is, but what
we are given to do in the meantime is to bring others into our company
of followers and friends of Jesus.
What we know of Paul’s story is that he was a very good Jew,
and a well educated one who took his faith tradition very seriously,
but who misunderstood it somewhat until he met the Risen Lord on
the Road to Damascus. That encounter transformed Paul ‘s faith
– it re-ordered his inner life but it did not change his profession
(tent-making) or his need to support himself in his human life.
What seems to have happened as part of his response to the encounter
with the Risen Christ, however, is that Paul’s secular business,
his craft of tent-making became a means for him of not only supporting
himself but of reaching out to others to share his wonderful Good
Today’s first reading reminds us that Paul as an ordinary
lay man went to people in his craft and trade – his secular
business to share with them his own transformation and its source.
His lay colleagues, a married couple, then took him to the members
of their mutual religious community – the Jews in the city
of Corinth. It is through the mediation of his fellow tradespeople
that Paul preaches his faith message.
The preaching of the Good News to “to all the world”
must come from ordinary lay Christians who have encountered the
Risen Christ and been transformed by that encounter. It is the Church’s
responsibility to mediate that encounter (and the role of the Clergy
to make sure the Church does so) but once we have met Christ himself,
and he has forgiven our sins and called us to labor for the Kingdom
of God, every one of us who are baptized and confirmed in Christ
must proclaim to the ordinary world by our deeds and our words,
the “Good News” of God’s great and saving love.
The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council, in the Spirit of today’s
readings asserted: “The work of the whole Church, and of each
of its members, aims primarily at announcing to the world by word
and action the message of Christ . . . . Lay persons have countless
opportunities for exercising the work of evangelization and sanctification
. . . the Council earnestly exhorts men and women to take a more
active part . . . in the explanation and defense of Christian principles
and in the correct application of them to the problems of our times.”
The Decree on Lay People, #6.