American poet Anne Porter found in her purse a ticket that read “Keep This Ticket” but she could not recall how it got there or what the ticket was for. She went on to describe in verse that one day an angel might ask for a ticket on the border between time and eternity. Thus, keeping the ticket had tremendous consequences.
Porter wrote: “…I’m old / Which means / I’ll soon be leaving / For another country.”
Regardless of our age, we will all eventually be leaving for “another country,” the one from which, Shakespeare claims, no one has returned (though how to account for Lazarus and the daughter of Jairus?). This feast of Ascension points our attention toward the realm of “Our glory and our hope.” What tickets must we present to the angel at the border of eternity?
Ticket of witnessing! Jesus promised the disciples the gift of the Holy Spirit that would empower them to go to the ends of the earth and give witness to the good news of salvation. This is the task that we receive in baptism and confirmation. The new life given to us must be shared, in word and deed, with others. We cannot stand idly by doing nothing. Ministry is our call: evangelization is our mission.
Ticket of knowledge! St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is also a prayer. Paul prays that the community might, through wisdom and revelation, come to a profound knowledge of Jesus. That knowledge embraces awareness that Jesus has total dominion over all creation. Here is a knowledge that is derived from faith. Here is a knowledge that is filled with hope and overflows into love.
Ticket of joy! Christianity is not a ponderous religion. The Gospel relates: “They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy…” The feasts of the Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord are permeated with joy and praise. Despite our anxieties and suffering, God is with us and the Spirit has been offered to us. It is because of God’s love that we can be joyful in the midst of a broken world.
We will all, sooner or later, be leaving for another country, the one to which Jesus went upon completing his mission on earth. He and all the saints now intercede for us that we might have in hand the tickets of witness, knowledge and joy. How sad it would be that, upon departing, we would appear at the gate in sadness, ignorance and with a wasted life.
Questions for reflection
1. How close are you to departing for another country?
2. What tickets for this journey do you have presently at hand?
3. How does the feast of the Ascension affect your everyday life?
Bishop Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese and pastor of Resurrection Parish in Allouez.