A few years ago on vacation I traveled to Jefferson City, MO to see the murals in the Missouri State Capital building done by Thomas Hart Benton. Before I came back, I decided to stop at the National Churchill Museum in Fulton, MO. It was at Fulton University that Winston Churchill gave his famous “Iron Curtain” speech. Among the merchandise on sale at the museum were t-shirts and other articles with the slogan:
For some reason, I was unaware of the many items for sale all over that were take-offs of this slogan. This slogan came to me as I reflected on the reading for the Ascension of Jesus. In our first reading from Acts, which is also similarly noted in our Gospel reading from Luke, the Risen Jesus has spent time with His disciples, reinforcing what He had told them about the kingdom of God, and telling them to wait in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit. At an appointed time, Jesus was taken up from them into heaven. And while they were standing there, trying to get their last glimpse of Him, two angels come to them, and say, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”
Why were they still looking up? I wonder if it was because they didn’t fully understood what Jesus meant when He talked to them about the coming of the Holy Spirit. It wouldn’t be the first time they didn’t quite get what Jesus was saying. Maybe they really thought that He was going from them. They may have thought, “What are we going to do now? How are we going to carry on without Him?”
We know that Jesus did not leave them abandoned, but that He had to return to the Father so that they could receive the Holy Spirit, and that He would be with them forever (Matthew 28:20). We know that this is true for us as well. Jesus will not abandon us or leave us behind! He is not calling us to carry on without Him, but carry on with Him in the Holy Spirit!
And for what are we to carry on? Before Jesus ascends, His disciples ask Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus answers them, “It is not for you to know the times and seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you…” We do not carry on being disciples of Jesus to restore worldly kingdoms. We’re not about propping up systems where one group or certain groups retain dominance over others. We’re not about perpetuating discrimination and injustice. We’re about proclaiming the love of God in Jesus Christ and sharing that love with others. It’s not about the glory of a particular place or kingdom or country, but about the glory of God, and how we treat others. We carry on, including carrying our crosses when they come, and helping lift each other up.
May we keep the love of Christ in our hearts and carry on!
In the Risen Christ,
Fr. Phil, CP