May 27 & 28, 2017

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

Pope Francis recently spoke of the Ascension in this way: “. . . the Ascension does not point to Jesus’ absence, but tells us that he is alive in our midst in a new way.” The Ascension is Jesus’ powerful statement of trust in his disciples to continue his mission and, through God’s grace, to be his presence in the world. The dramatic act of the Ascension is a clear incarnational statement that Jesus continues to be present in the world through the lives of his disciples who carry forth his mission of Redemption.

We gave witness to this at last Sunday’s Co-workers in Ministry Celebration. Over 200 co-workers who carry out our 77 church ministries gathered for prayer and a picnic feast to give thanks and remember that as his disciples we, together, carry forth Christ’s mission to bring life to the world. We serve together as co-workers with Christ. Thanks to all of our co-workers for strengthening our efforts to carry forth Christ’s mission through the many ministries of our parish. In particular, I want to thank our parish staff who made extra efforts to make our Co-Workers in Ministry Celebration a successful event.

Two scenes in the scripture readings for the Solemnity of the Ascension present us with powerful images of conversion within discipleship. In Matthew’s Gospel we read that the disciples went where they were told, they worshiped, but they had their doubts about the endeavor. Does this make them look like Thomas, the Twin? In the midst of their doubts, they receive the great commission to go, make disciples, baptize, and teach what they have learned from Christ. Jesus also promises to be with them always. In the midst of their missionary discipleship, they would remember and encounter him time and time again. In these encounters, he transforms them into preachers, healers, and witnesses who bring people to belief in Christ and form them into missionary disciples of Christ. When we meet Christ he changes us too. He can lead us beyond our doubts to faith, beyond our weakness to the strength of virtue, and beyond our sin and brokenness to holiness and wholeness. He keeps his promises. He is with us. Are we ready to meet him and grow as his missionary disciples?

The second scene is from the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus ascends into heaven and the Apostles stand there looking up into the sky. From a certain perspective this is understandable, but not for missionary disciples. Two men dressed in white appear and ask them don’t you have something more important to do than look up into the sky. They direct them to Christ’s mission where they would encounter him in the midst of their ministry. What about us? What distracts us from our Christ-given mission and from discovering him in our midst, fashioning us through ministry into the people he calls us to be. Christ is not absent. He is alive in our lives in a new way. That is his promise to us.
On this Memorial Day weekend, we honor those who have given their lives to protect, defend, and preserve our country. They were willing to lay down their lives so that we could live as free citizens. We honor them best every day by seeking and working for the common good of our country. Happy Memorial Day.

May God’s Peace be Yours,
Msgr. Jay