Sunday, May 13
By Bernadette Gibson
“Follow me, and I will make you fish for people”.
You will be my witnesses – this is Jesus’ simple plan. He calls the disciples and he takes them out with him in mission. He trains them in the new way of life in the Kingdom of God, and then he sends them out to tell other people what they have seen and heard. Do you remember right at the beginning of Mark’s Gospel when Jesus starts calling people to follow him? As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake – for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fish for people”. And, ‘fishing for people’ may be the simple purpose of discipleship.
We sometimes think of the Ascension as the day Jesus left the church: one minute He was with the disciples, the next minute a cloud took Him out of their sight, and He was gone. Peter gives one account of the Ascension in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, where he says that Jesus has been ‘exalted at the right hand of God’. The right hand of God is the place of authority and power. I believe the Book of Acts is a reminder to us that Jesus’ work is not finished. He finished His redemptive work on the cross and even announced the fact before He died, it is finished. However, Jesus work of fishing for people, is never finished. Jesus asks his followers to continue the work of sharing the Gospel with others.
In my work in pastoral care I have the privilege of attending many funerals and honoring many beautiful lives. Often times I will hear the priest say that our memories of the one who has passed away will allow that person to live on. A Homilist might even speak of how a person can live on through our actions. These are comforting words to a family member or us as friends, because it means that the life of the deceased will not be forgotten as memories of them are carried with us. Following His crucifixion and resurrection Jesus says something similar to what I have just spoken of. Jesus tells His disciples that they need to carry the memory of His life into the world.
This week Jesus’ commissions his disciples at the time of His Ascension. It is a promise of Jesus’ fidelity to his church which receives the mission which Jesus had carried out during His life. We are coming to the end of this great cycle of the Resurrection Story and now we see Jesus return to His Father. It is really important for us to recognize that Jesus appeared to His followers after His Resurrection. He does signs and speaks to them. He eats with them. He tells them about how to live. The most important thing is that He assures them that He is alive and with the Father. Jesus tells us clearly the He goes so that He can send His Holy Spirit upon us.
We must now learn to live in the Holy Spirit and to call on the Holy Spirit to help us. It is the Holy Spirit who will teach us the truth about our faith. Jesus tells us that if we believe, great events will happen. Jesus tells us over and over: do not be afraid. Ask and you shall receive. Seek and you will find. The Gospel of Mark today tells us what the early believers did because they believed in Jesus. You are I are invited to believe and to let the Holy Spirit act through us. The Letter to the Ephesians tells us that God will work in each of us in different ways. We simply must believe and let God work in us in any way that serves God’s people and the use of our special gifts.
Perhaps today is in an invitation to spend some time in connection to the Spirit. Perhaps today is an invitation to turn off the TV, put down the smart phone, and just be and breathe. Perhaps today is an invitation to meditate and pause our minds and interact with the world around us and to celebrate with gratitude. I happen to believe that Just finding time to be thankful diminishes our fears and reconnects us with the Spirit. And Awareness can help us to adapt to the ever changing circumstances of life around us and help us find peace.
Every time I find space to be with the Spirit I feel more like myself. Every encounter I have with Jesus is like coming home. For that time, I can rest. I let go of conflict, obsession, worry, and grief. From these moments of respite, I gather courage and strength and willingness to follow the example of the Compassion of God in my interactions with others.
On this Ascension Sunday. It is important to remember that awakening and spirituality are both a part of personal Ascension. Jesus is asking us to awaken to the authentic nature of our Spirits. By consciously aligning ourselves with our Divine nature, we accept an invitation from the Holy Spirit to act through us. Let us celebrate our gifts today and fish for God’s people!
Bernadette Gibson is the Director of Pastoral Care are Old Saint Patrick’s Church.