Sunday, June 2, 2019
This weekend we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, where Jesus tells his disciples to go out and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Today’s words from Ephesians explode with hope and delight… “Brothers and sisters…may the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call…” Through the challenges our Church, the institution, faces today, the faithful’s vision of this promise is blurred, so the written word is a reminder rich with unending hope. The enlightened heart is like that of a child, full of wonder and delight, a poignant sentiment of how Jesus shared his light with everyone around him. God asks us to share our own light with the world… “They will know we are Christians by our love” are the words of a traditional hymn, reminding us that if our actions do not show that we have repented by opening our hearts to God so that we might receive the abundant love God wishes to lavish upon us, then our words mean nothing.
Children have the abundant capacity to share their smiles, and tears, openly and compassionately. Their youthful hearts are not yet afraid with worry, they know that their God loves them unconditionally, as He loves everyone, and with ongoing catechesis they grow into God’s embrace more fully. Their faith will be tested; they will question it, they will doubt it, they will ignore it, and they may eventually walk away from it. Just like the disciples, we are a people with many questions and many doubts. The scripture today reminds us why we continue to believe in Jesus’ promise… this is our faith.
Blessed to visit some of the poorest dioceses of Puerto Rico last month, I was struck with wonder by the ‘enlightened hearts’ of the people I met. One couple in particular, Miguel and Julie, live with such a fierce faith, I caught a glimpse of God in their eyes…no joke. Julie, always holding a blue crystal rosary in her hand, and Miguel shared stories of survival post Hurricane Maria. They knew God was always present, but when Maria swept across their land, they became acutely aware that God was not only alive in their hearts, He was dancing, reminding them of the joy that is their faith, calling them to spread the Good News. Immediately after Maria left the island leaving inconceivable destruction, Miguel and Julie joined hands with their neighbors and started to rebuild in whatever way they could. They fed their neighbors with hot dogs, the only food they could find for two weeks, never running out, every day having just enough to reach those living on the margins who were confined to their homes, or what was left of them. I knew I was sitting in the midst of a power I have never felt before as I eagerly listened and absorbed every word Julie and Miguel expressed while they shared their stories. God’s presence was alive in them when they spoke, when they smiled at each other, and when they held hands; the experience of Maria only made them stronger. It’s as if these two children of God had traveled with the disciples long ago, holding the hands of Peter and John so they could be closer to Jesus when he said, “And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Their love for each other and for their God is steadfast…nothing, not even the strength of a Category 4 Hurricane, can stop it.
Today we celebrate Jesus’ ascension into heaven, and although he may not be physically visible, he is most certainly walking right next to us. If we allow ourselves to believe and to see through the blurriness and busyness of our lives, he is present, tugging at our hearts and telling us to open our eyes so that we can see the goodness around us…in disciples like Julie and Miguel. Faith is a wondrous gift we hold, allowing God to live fully within if we keep our hearts open. We don’t need to travel very far to hear the Good News because we are an Easter people, just like Julie and Miguel, eagerly awaiting Jesus’ return. May we strive to be present and listen to the words of wisdom and grace in the ordinary minutes of our days as we continue to build up the Kingdom of God.
Clare D’Agostino is the Religious Education Coordinator at The Frances Xavier Warde School