Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Reading I Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47:2-3, 6-9
Reading II Ephesians 1:17-23
Gospel Luke 24:46-53
If you would go home this afternoon and take out your Bible and look at the Gospels of the Synoptic writers Matthew, Mark and Luke, you will find that each Gospel ends in the same way. Each evangelist had all they had to say and that was it. They talked about this man and now he has gone home. He’s going to come back but we have no idea what this Spirit means.
I want each of you to think of a moment in your life, and you should have many of these moments, when something took place in your life and you weren’t sure how it was going to end — but when it did end it gave you that sense, “I need to trust.”
I’ll give you a couple of examples in my own life and you can wander off into your own minds and think about moments that have been important to you. I was visiting in California one time with another priest and we came upon this sign that said, “Hot Air Balloon Rides.” I had never had a balloon ride so I asked the priest with me, “What do you say we do this?” He said, “Sure.” So we got our tickets and we drove to the right place and we pulled up and I looked at the balloon and thought, “Oh, my gosh. They are going to take us up in this thing!” It was a big square basket with the balloon attached to it. I asked at the 5 p.m. Mass how many people had gone up in a balloon ride and two raised their hands. What about all of you? You have? Great.
The people in charge said, “Don’t worry. Just stay toward the end of the basket. You’ll be fine and when we finish the ride we are going to land right over there and there is going to be a champagne brunch for all of you.” I thought, “Well, this is going to be something.” Well, we got up in the air and we floated all around the place and it was just fantastic. It was better than an airplane because we were so close to earth we could just see everything. When it was about to end the man who was manning the balloon brought it around and we landed just where he said he was going to land. And the champagne brunch was waiting.
That’s a human experience of when you are not sure what is going to happen and you have to trust.
Another experience I had was in San Antonio, Texas. I was there for a meeting and someone said, “You’ve got to go to this restaurant. It’s called “The Rib Shack” and it’s the best place in town. We said, “Fine.” So we drove to this place and it was, indeed, a shack and I thought, “Oh, my gosh.” There were cars all around the place and we walked in. You place your order, they wrap it in newspaper, you go find a place to sit down and eat. There is nothing but park benches and I am thinking, “Boy. These ribs better be mighty good.” We all took the newspapers with ribs in them, sat down, opened them and started to eat and, they were absolutely fantastic. I’d fly to San Antonio to have them again.
Those are two experiences. They are human experiences of how someone said, “You have to believe. You have to trust.” When we celebrate our faith, that’s what it’s all about. The whole thing is a mystery. We started off wondering, “Who’s this woman Mary?” And then we find out there is this hidden life we didn’t know anything about, and all of a sudden this young man appears on the scene. He’s different from everybody else. And his message is unique.
He had a message of love but it was not the kind of love we were used to. He said, “I’m going to train you people.” And we go back to Holy Week and he said, “I’m going to teach you how to wash feet, I’m going to teach you how to break bread, and I want to make sure you know how to share the cup of blessing. If you don’t get those things down, nothing is going to make sense.” Now he moves on and says, “I rose from the dead. I ate with you. Come over to the fire. Now I am going back to the Father.”
“Oh, you can’t go back. You’re the one that has to take me on that hot air balloon because you did it the first time, and you’re the one who has to make those ribs because nobody else can make them like you.”
And Jesus says, “You’ll understand when I give you the Spirit. You are going to make the best ribs in town and you are going to be able to fly anything. But you have to feel the Spirit. The Spirit will open your eyes and the Spirit is going to make you think and you are going to taste things differently. You are going to hear things differently. And every moment is going to somehow bring you into focus and when my Spirit comes back to you and the Father and I place it in your heart — you are going to find out there is more to your life than you can imagine.
“And it has nothing to do with ribs. It has nothing to do with hot air balloons. It has to do with people. I want you to get that feeling for each other. The Father and I, the whole world is created differently — we have different colors of skin, we have different languages and I made you into men into women. I gave you the ability to expand the human population all over the world. You cannot do that without me. And it’s got to go on from generation to generation.”
This morning, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, there is no better example to understand the Easter message than to look at our own mothers and to remember that today sitting here there are grandmothers, and mothers, and daughters, granddaughters, and great-granddaughters. In another hundred years there will be another whole group of daughters, and mothers, and granddaughters — it’s never going to stop. And God says, “If you want this world to understand who I am you have to learn how to love.”
Moms are gifted with that spirit. They draw the strength from their own families but they have a way of nurturing. Jesus says, “I want all of you to nurture and transform each other with this Spirit. Don’t ever feel lost. Don’t ever be afraid. Get into that hot air balloon. Taste those ribs. Just know that when something is past on in love it’s the most powerful gift in the whole world.”
Jesus says, “What you have received from your moms, I want you to now go out of the house and share it with the rest of the world. That’s what it’s all about.”
This person is having a bad day, this person is having a good day. This person is sick, this person is well. If this person has faith, this person is looking for faith. If this person knows that he is loved, there is someone else who doesn’t feel loved. That is the beauty of who we are as the people of God.
So on this feast of the Ascension, go back to those experiences in your own life. How many people have nurtured you since the moment you came from your mother’s womb? Just think about it. Probably ninety-nine per cent of them you don’t even know. You only know that little servant. There are millions of people celebrating Eucharist this morning in all corners of the world, in all different languages, in all different customs and they all heard the same readings. They are going to receive the same body and blood of Christ and they are all going to be sent from their own church to go out and change the world — all because God said to his son in a very mysterious way and then took his son back to himself and said, “But our Spirit will live.”
That is why you and I are not sitting here saying, “I’m 400 years old, I’m 800 years old.” We all have a time frame. God says, “That time frame is so important. You have to live the Gospel and love with everything you’ve got in order for the rest of the world to live.”
It’s so magnificent. The ribs, who really cares? The hot air balloon, who really cares? But when our faith is given to us, we can’t do anything but say, I want you to have this experience. I want you to feel it. I want you to live it. I want you to believe it. I want you to celebrate it. I just want you to know that God’s love is the most awesome Mother’s Day gift, Father’s Day gift, Christmas gift, birthday gift that you could possibly ever receive or ever want in your life.
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR 40 file 0041)