Sunday, June 2
The Ascension of the Lord
(I know in some dioceses they celebrated Ascension on Thursday but in the Archdiocese of Chicago, as in many other dioceses, this Feast is moved to the following Sunday, taking the place of the 7th Sunday of Easter.)
This past week at our school of Frances Xavier Warde we celebrated our last “All School” Masses with the students. I use the plural word “masses” because our school of almost 1,000 students is found on two campuses: here at Old St. Patrick’s and the other campus being over at Holy Name Cathedral, thus requiring two liturgies. The student body is divided between the lower grades and the upper grades. Old St. Pat’s hosts the students from preschool to 3rd grade, while Holy Name Cathedral campus has the 4th through 8th grades. Needless to say, with two distinctly different “congregations” because of age gaps from 5 year olds to 14, I had to come up with two different homilies.
For the little ones on our campus here at OSP, as with any children’s liturgy, I did my best to keep them focused and engaged by asking them a very simple question: “what have you learned this year in school?” Whenever the homily is dialogical and I ask for participation, these little munchkins jump right in. The big kids, not so much. They’re too school for cool (as the pop song expresses!) Most times, for the smaller students, it turns into chaos with every kid raising his or her hand, wanting desperately to share their response! I heard what you would expect: “I learned how to add and subtract; I learned division; I learned how to spell; I learned about art.” And the list goes on…
But there was one response that really caught my attention from a young gentleman in second grade: “I learned how to build a city.” Whoa, I thought! You learned how to build a city?? I told him he could be the next mayor of Chicago. As much as he caught me off-guard with that response, I thought it was a fascinating answer.
With it being the Feast of the Ascension, the 40th day since the Resurrection, and the Risen Lord is now ready to return to God’s right hand, I muse on whether Jesus might have asked his disciples that same question: so, what have you learned?
After I received a sufficient amount of responses from my young friends at the school mass and a sufficient amount of chaos ensued, I then just simply said: so what will you do with all that you learned? That may have been a little over the head for my young assembly. Being a Catholic school, I continued on and said that I hope we did more for you than just fill your heads with knowledge. I hope we all learned something more about the Gospel, our Faith, the religious Traditions of others in our school, respect, reverence, generosity, and prayer.
Each Ascension Day when we consider the first words of the Acts of Apostles (Act 1:1-11) I am always intrigued by the words of the “two men dressed in white garments” (the sign of the baptized!): “why are you standing there looking at the sky?” Essentially the messengers are saying: why are you just standing around? He taught us so much! So let’s not just stand idle and mourn our losses and fear this moment of transition, we’ve got work to do, so let’s get to it!
Which brings me back to what that kid said: “I learned how to build a city.” On this feast of the Ascension, let’s be renewed in what we know and in what we believe. The Master taught us and hopefully we have learned how to build the Kingdom… Hopefully we’ve learned something from Jesus about the importance of Love, forgiveness, charity, being inclusive, giving others a second chance, caring for each other—especially the most vulnerable, respect and reverence for all life, work for peace and justice, be fair, speak kindly, show compassion…
As the disciples were instructed by the Risen One not to leave the city….don’t run away….just wait for the Spirit to guide you, strengthen you, and be your wisdom so you can learn more and build more. May we never stop learning and may we never stop building a Holy World, a Holy Church, a Holy Home, and a Holy Life.
Father Tom Hurley