Bishop Morneau's Column|
"Reflection on the Readings"
|Bishop Robert Morneau
A call to follow in the footsteps of Jesus
God has entrusted us to the gift of the Spirit and the grace of faith
May 27, Ascension of the Lord
By Bishop Robert Morneau
Questions for reflection:
1. How well do you do in saying goodbye?
2. What legacy are you asked to care for and share?
3. Why is "parting such sweet sorrow?"
Some of us don't like saying good-bye: good-bye to a season, to the ending of a good book, to a friendship, to someone we love who is called home to the Lord. Good-byes are painful and often leave a void that nothing and no one can fill.
When Jesus returned to the Father there was a major goodbye. No longer would the apostles experience the historical, physical presence of their Lord, Savior and Friend. Now they would have to travel at a new depth of faith, trusting that the promises made to them would be fulfilled. Now they would have to remember how Jesus taught them to love and they would have to rely on the Holy Spirit to empower them to live this great commandment.
Sometimes those who leave us entrust us with a legacy: knowledge, money, a task, the precious gift of love. They pass on to us what they had responsibility for during their sojourn here on earth. This moment of entrustment is sacred and has eternal ramifications. It is so important that we, as Christians, recall and celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord and what this feast means to our discipleship. In a real sense, this is a feast of entrustment and stewardship.
Put simply, we are now witnesses to the ends of the earth. Our testimony involves sharing the story of God's creative, redeeming, sanctifying love in Jesus. We have a message to tell and story to live. It is useless to stand looking up into the heavens. Our responsibility is to follow in the footsteps of the Master.
St. Paul was an outstanding witness. His prayer for wisdom, vision and hope reflect the fact that he himself had been given these gifts - this legacy - which he now wants the Ephesians and us to have. St. Paul reminds us that Jesus now guides and governs our lives from his place in heaven. Although ascended, the risen Lord continues to be at the core of this disciple's life and heart.
Two things were of central importance for the apostles in fulfilling their legacy call: praying and preaching. It would be through prayer that they would be in daily communication with Christ Jesus; it would be through preaching (and healing and caring) that they would pass on God's love in visible form. Through them sins would be forgiven; through them, Jesus would continue to live in history.
Each of us has been given a legacy both from our biological family and from our faith family, the Church. God has entrusted to us a variety of gifts and talents that we will one day be accountable for. God has entrusted to us the gift of the Spirit and the grace of faith, which we are to share with others through deed and word. All of us are called to be witnesses, to give testimony of God's mercy and love.
Farewells are difficult. We like to hang on to what is precious to us. But life is receiving and letting go; life is being conduits of God's love.
The opening prayer for the feast of the Ascension captures well the essence of our celebration: "Father in heaven, our minds were prepared for the coming of your kingdom when you took Christ beyond our sight so that we might seek him in his glory. May we follow where he has led and find our hope in his glory, for He is Lord forever. Amen."
(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)