Carry the gospel with you

Posted in Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on May 24, 2009

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 16:15-20

Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.

Reflection on the gospel reading: We celebrate today the Feast of the Ascension. The name of the feast, and to a certain extent, the text that describes the event, seems to suggest to us that the Lord rose above his disciples like a person who climbed on-board a large helium balloon or a helicopter. In fact, this was not the case. The text says Jesus went to heaven. Heaven is not a place that exists in a directional relationship with physical reality. It is a state of being in the presence of God. The ascension was not a launching of Jesus into space but a translation of his being from immediacy in our world to assumption of his place at God’s right hand. The ascension is about Jesus taking his place with God.

But in all the accounts of the ascension, Jesus commissions the apostles to carry on his work, and by extension, he commissions the Church, that is, he commissions us. If we look at the texts from today’s gospel and the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we can read ftwo different commissions and one promise that we as church have received from Jesus at the ascension:

1. We are to evangelize. This means that we are to preach the Gospel, not just by what we say but also by who we are and what we do.

2. We are to heal. It is not just the body that Jesus asks us to heal. He also commands us to pay attention to the rational and emotional processes that are constitutive elements of the human person.

3. We are to receive the Holy Spirit. Jesus has not left us orphans, but he has promised to be with us in his Spirit who will empower us to witness for Jesus.

Spiritual reading: Remember: if you want to make progress on the path and ascend to the places you have longed for, the important thing is not to think much but to love much, and so to do whatever best awakens you to love. (Teresa of Avila)


4 Responses

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  1. Deacon Matthew said, on May 24, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    As I worked on preparing my homily for the Ascension, this post was very helpful! Thank you!

  2. frmike said, on May 24, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    Thank you, Matthew. I preached it twice this morning. I think it came together a little more smoothly the second time. I hope you are well.

  3. Deacon Matthew said, on May 28, 2009 at 11:58 pm

    I hope your preaching went well. I was recently watching a re-run of The West Wing where the president and first lady were returning from mass. The president was upset about the sermon and he called the priest a “hack.” He felt that he squandered his opportunity before a captive audience. And he said the following, which I hope to keep in mind during my own homily prep:

    “Words, when spoken out loud for the sake of performance, are music. They have rhythm, and pitch, and timbre, and volume. These are the properties of music, and music has the ability to find us and move us, and lift us up in ways that literal meanings can’t. Do you see?”

    Just thought I would share!

    • frmike said, on May 29, 2009 at 10:25 am

      Matthew: Thanks for your comment. It’s something I will try to keep in mind, too. I prepare homilies in writing, but I preach them extemporaneously because my homilies are too stilted when I have the text in front of me. But I still find that when I have a chance to preach twice, the second “performance” is almost always better than the first. It makes me think that I should stand in the middle of my living room and deliver my homily to the sofa before I go to mass and deliver it to a room full of people.

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