Men and women of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church, "why do you stand looking into heaven"? Of course this is the question posed by the two men in white robes standing by the disciples on the mount called Olivet. Acts 1:11. These angels were bringing the apostles back to reality, as if they were saying, "enough of the cloud gazing - it is time to get to work." It is a question that is meant for each of us. What are we waiting for? It is time to get to work. What is this work?
It is the same work that Jesus was doing. We are all called to spread the Kingdom of God here on earth. Jesus explains this just prior to his ascension. "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:8. So there are three things that will happen: (1) we will receive the power of the Holy Spirit; (2) we will be witnesses for Christ; and (3) we will spread this message to the end of the earth. This is the universal call to mission. It is Jesus' command to each of us that we spread the Good News.
At this point in the Book of Acts, the apostles have not yet received the Holy Spirit. That would come on Pentecost. But there is a connection between the Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. Jesus had to be seated at the right hand of the Father in order to send the Holy Spirit to us. Remember something that Jesus said in the Gospel of John during the Last Supper: "Nevertheless I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you." John 16:7. When you think of Jesus' ministry, he was able to make a difference in the lives of the people he personally encountered. Jesus did not teach and heal everyone. You had to have a personal encounter with the physical person of Jesus to be taught or healed. In terms of the geographical scope of Jesus' ministry, it was basically limited to Holy Land. Bishop Robert Barron analogizes Jesus' ascension to assuming a command position in Heaven where he can direct the battle here on earth. You can find Bishop Barron's homily here.
Once Jesus ascends to the Father and assumes his command position, the physical limitations are removed. Jesus sends us his Spirit. He can now be everywhere and available to everyone. And make no mistake, we still need a personal encounter with the Lord. Being a disciple is not a spectator sport. Through his ascension to the right hand of the Father, all of us can have that personal encounter with the living Jesus.
All of us who have been confirmed have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit. However, the gift requires a response from us. At its core, the response involves relinquishment of control of our lives to Jesus by putting Him at the center. The more we strive to conform our will to the will of Christ, the more we truly make Jesus the Lord, but "Our" own personal Lord in our lives. If you want to see your faith come alive and burn bright, stop asking Jesus to tweak your life. Things such as fix my job, or fix my boss, spouse, in-law (or fill in the blank), constitute tweaking. You want real transformation? I seriously dare you to do this. Pray this prayer: Lord, my life is yours. It is all on the table. Not ten percent, thirty percent, or fifty-five percent. You have it all. Please show me what you want me to do.
This brings me to today's Gospel. It is the "Great Commission." In the Gospel of Matthew, this is Jesus' last earthly command before ascending. "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the close of the age." Matt. 28:19-20. We are all called to "go" and to "make disciples." Look around today. There is so much work to be done. Men and Women of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Madison, Mississippi, "why do you stand looking into heaven"? It is time to get to work. It is time to "go" and "make disciples."