Learning to Be an EASTER People
Use the following reflections to nourish your spirit and strengthen your ministries. The readings between Easter and Pentecost provide so much insight and encouragement. Do not give up hope. JESUS IS ALIVE AND WITH US!
The Angels of the Ascension
The Ascension—different writers in the early Christian community relate different accounts of this event, but they all create vivid pictures for us… What is common to the stories is that Jesus is leaving us, at least for “a little while” after which we will again see him and our hearts will rejoice. There is also a commissioning—Christ’s followers are SENT OUT, and interwoven with the sending are those haunting words and prayers of Jesus at the Last Supper: prayers for fullness of life, for deep and abiding joy, for unity … a strong, passionate, almost pained entreaty (his final wish as he walks to his death) that we follow his example of service and of self-sacrificing love for one another… for “by this will all know that you are my disciples.” Powerful images…
But today I’m struck by the similarities of Luke’s Gospel description of the Resurrection and his description of the Ascension in Acts. In both scenes, two angels in dazzling clothing admonish the disciples for standing and staring, for looking for Jesus where he obviously no longer is. To the women at the tomb, “Why do you search for the LIVING ONE among the dead? He is not here… Remember what he said to you while he was still in Galilee…” And on the mount of the Ascension, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return…” But not here, not now—there’s work to be done. Get busy!
Christ will not be found among the dead--not in dead people, dead structures, dead laws and rituals and traditions… Our God is a living God! Christ came so that we might have life, life in all its fullness! But if Christ can’t be found in tombs, neither can he be found by standing on mountaintops, staring into the heavens. Lofty ideals, visions of perfection, the peace of being ‘above it all’, divorced from the chaos and messiness of human life—we won’t find Christ here either. We need to keep our eyes and ears and hearts open, letting go of past encounters, past securities. The clear message of the angels—don’t get caught up in either your grief or your ecstasy. Christ is alive and has moved on, gone forward, and if you wish to see him, so must you. Christ risen and ascended was not easy to recognize, even for those who walked with him daily throughout his public ministry. Like the disciples, we must leave the mountain top and enter into the city, return to the messiness and conflict always found in community, journey to the far corners of the world and to the outskirts of our churches where Jews and Gentiles, gays and straights, mingle in an often uncomfortable mix… But that’s where we’ll see Jesus!
As we journey toward Pentecost, we are reminded that in order to find and recognize the One we seek so ardently, we must listen for the wind, look for the fire, enter into the chaos of many voices speaking different languages… So frequently we are unable to understand what the other is saying; efforts to communicate appear as nothing but babble. But it is into this chaos that the Spirit comes—and out of this chaos that the LOVE OF GOD brings Wisdom, Understanding, Peace, Patience, and all those other marvelous gifts…and the Unity that was Christ’s dying wish. This season holds great meaning for those of us who labor to set the table for inclusive parish communities where GLBT Catholics feel welcome and truly at home. Let us pray together for the Coming of the Spirit into the chaos!