We may know that a parent is dying. But are we ever really prepared?
Of course, the situation is more complicated if we did not see it coming – an accident, pandemic, violence…
Let’s explore how prepared the followers of Christ were to face his leaving them and ascending to heaven.
Those present as he ascended to heaven
We do not know much about who was present at the ascension of Jesus. He returned to be with the God who sent him on his mission.
But remember! They had just been through a hellish weekend that destroyed their hopes of deliverance from oppression. They had hailed their “king” only to see him brutally murdered before their eyes.
Now his resurrection… they never saw his resurrection coming despite what Jesus said.
“He lives” … they rejoiced! But now he was “going away.” “What is going on?”
True, Jesus told them beforehand, but they still did not understand where he was going, much less the way! They did not see the connection between his words and actions at the last supper.
They knew he was on a mission to bring Good News to all especially the marginalized! But at a deep level, they assumed that liberation meant freedom from the forms of oppression they had experienced over so many centuries.
They did not realize he was passing on the baton of the mission he had received from God the Father. Jesus was entrusting them to live as he lived and love as he loved… to carry on his mission.
Passing on the baton
Caught up in the celebration of the Passover meal, they did not understand what Jesus did and said after the meal.
After the meal, he knelt down to wash their feet… something only servants did!
So Jesus pointedly asked them… “Do you understand what I have done?”
If I, your Lord and master, have washed your feet as a sign of God’s love, continue my mission by washing one another’s feet as signs of God’s love.
In effect, this powerfully summed up all his teaching and the wonderful things he had done. The next day he would utter his final breath to say forgive them … God loves us no matter what we have done.
He was handing over the baton!
He made it clear they should continue his mission.
“See these Christians… how they love!” By this shall all know you are my followers. They had picked up his mission.
Let Love light up my mortal flame…
It is simple enough to understand… once we think about it. But it takes a lifetime to live!
The Book of the Acts of the Apostles shows us the struggle of the early followers to accept the challenge and pick up the baton of imitating Christ in his mission.
On the little memento card of my ordination, I borrowed words from St. Vincent.
“If the love of God is a fire, zeal is its flame…. Let love light up my mortal frame ‘til others catch the living flame.’
I must admit that when I first accepted God’s call to pick up the baton from Jesus, my understanding was limited.
I did not realize what was involved in accepting this baton/!
I did not realize that the commitment I was making to follow Jesus is a commitment we are each called to make. Single persons, husbands and wives, priesthood or consecrated life… each of us is called to open ourselves to the Pentecost flame of God’s love.
“Fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you.” 2 Tim 1:6
Click below for an early audio version of this Vincentian Mindwlk