The Solemnity of the Ascension
2018 – Cycle B
Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 4:1-13; Mark 16:15-20
This past Sunday I noted that context is everything. Context gives meaning to all spoken or written words lest they be misinterpreted. The Gospels we have been hearing during this Easter Season are not those of the risen Christ but rather of Jesus at the Last Supper hours before his arrest, torture and crucifixion. This context give his words an urgency and depth they might not otherwise have.
Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is similar in that it is a letter from prison, “I, a prisoner for the Lord…” From prison Paul urges us “to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.” What is ironic is that Paul exhorts Christians to lead a kind of life that got him imprisoned.
So, what is the worthy life that he insists on for Christians? He cites four virtues that preserve the unity of the church: humility, gentleness, patience and bearing with one another through love. All four virtues are relational and foster harmony within the community.
Humility keeps a person from seeking to gain prominence over others. When people came to the Catholic Worker in New York City, Dorothy Day always introduced herself and asked who they came to see. Though well known, she never presumed they came for her because they may not have.
Gentleness is consideration for others. I think of the simple act of holding open a door for another person. Much more power has been to watch our teenage servers hold out an arm for George who is older and has difficulty to steady himself so he can climb the steps into the sanctuary and serve alongside them.
Patience. The Greek literally means long-tempered as opposed to short-tempered. Patience and “bearing with one another through love…” enable a person to deal courteously with people who are difficult and to do this out of love.
Prisons come in many forms. Consider the cynical, argumentative, judgmental, and polarized prison of our church and society in these present times. We need to reclaim these values. In the Ascension of Jesus we are not left alone. We have Jesus’ power to heal, comfort and to forgive right in our grasp. We have not been left alone; we have each other. Thus the question, “why are you standing there looking at the sky?” Rather look down into the eyes of your sisters and brothers with humility, gentleness and patience.
[Phrases and ideas from Preaching the New Lectionary by Dianne Bergant, The Liturgical Press, Collegeville, Minnesota.]