Way back on the first Sunday of Lent – we heard the Gospel of Mark tell us that the Spirit drove Jesus out into the desert, where he prayed and fasted and fought off temptations for 40 days.
Those forty days were a preparation period for Jesus’ public ministry of preaching and teaching – a ministry that came to an end when Jesus was lifted up on the cross to gain for us our salvation.
Today, we mark 40 days after Jesus resurrection when he is once again lifted up – not on the wood of the cross – but lifted up into the heavenly kingdom – to take his seat at the right hand of God.
As Jesus prepared 40 days for his own ministry – during these 40 days after the Resurrection he has been preparing his followers for their ministry –
“to go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”
St. Luke, in the Acts of the Apostles, gives us the most detailed account of this occurrence today in our readings.
There was Jesus, gathered with his disciples on the Mount of Olives – the same mountain on which he gathered with them on Palm Sunday before entering the gates of Jerusalem.
There, Jesus commissioned his disciples to be his witnesses – and that the Holy Spirit would give them the power and strength and courage for this mission.
Luke tells us that when Jesus was done speaking, “he was lifted up” into heaven. And then gives a very interesting detail. Jesus commissioned them, gave them their mission, ascended – and then they got right to work – right? No, the disciples stand there looking into the sky and it takes a couple of angels to get them going – to tell them to go get to work!
“It was not you who chose me – it was I who chose you.” Jesus has chosen each one of us to carry on his mission of proclaiming the love of God – do we get right to work – or do we drag our feet??
Several years ago in one of his daily homilies – Pope Frances spoke of how Christians are all too often just standing around on our journey of life—instead of moving forward to spread the Good News of the Gospel. And he actually had some very harsh words about this.
Pope Francis said that “Christians who stay still, who don’t go forward – are non-Christian Christians. . Those who don’t make the Beatitudes bloom in their lives, who don’t do works of mercy --- are like a mummy – all wrapped up in themselves and motionless when it comes to doing good.”
Pope Francis said we can all do well to examine our own lives and ask whether we, too, have lost our way or become stationary. He said to ask ourselves: How are we doing on our Christian journey? Are we standing still, making mistakes, turning here and there, stopping in front of things that we like --- or are we following Jesus the Good Shepherd – the True Vine – who wants us to bear fruit???
The Pope asks: have we let worldliness or vanity or stubbornness keep us from following Jesus as closely as we should? Or are we slowly turning into a mummy – becoming devoid of the new life Christ died to give us??
We do well to examine our lives in light of Pope Francis’ reflections – and as we journey toward Pentecost next week – to identify those mummified parts of us that need to be revived --- those stubborn parts of us that need to repent --- and those wayward parts of us that need to be brought back into the light of Christ ------------- so that we can be open to all of the Holy Spirit’s gifts ------- that we may be faithful in witnessing to the power of the Risen Lord: because that’s what we have been CHOSEN by Christ to do.
Let’s hope that no one needs to ask us: People of St. Patrick --- why are you standing there looking at the sky ------------ don’t you know there is work to be done in building the kingdom of God??????
Moments in time...