Ascension Sunday

By: Fr. Norm Tanck, CSB

We are drawing to the end of the 2020 Easter Time. Next Sunday we will celebrate the feast of Pentecost and Ordinary Time will start on the Monday after it. This year our Lent and Easter seasons have been uniquely different as is the world in which we celebrate it in is different. And I am sure that we will not be returning to anything that we can call ordinary or normal.
It would not have been unusual in the past that the end of the liturgical Easter Season coincided with end of the academic or school year. Colleges and universities would have already finished exams and students would have been heading home or moving out on their own to begin the next stage of their adult lives. High school students and students in lower grades would have been in school reviewing for end of the year exams as they were eagerly awaiting graduation and summer vacation. Victoria Day would have marked the beginning of “summer”. It would have been for many people a time of saying goodbye, letting go, and moving on.
Classmates, teachers, and friends would have been saying goodbye, promising to keep in touch or to “see you in September”.
For the last few weeks the Liturgy has been helping us to remember what it was like when Jesus was saying it was time for him to leave us and the promises he made to the apostles and to us.
Two weeks ago, we heard Jesus say,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:1-12).
Last week he told us,
“I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live” (John 14:15-21).
And this week as Jesus is ascending to the Father says,
“…Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20).
The Ascension of Jesus is for us an act of love and an act of trust.
Jesus loves his disciples, the apostles, and us, so much that he is willing to let go of them so that they, through the power of the Holy Spirit, can take possession of the gifts and talents given to them and go out to change the world.
On the night before he let go of his own life for our sake, Jesus told his disciples, “… very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).
Graduation ceremonies are often called commencement ceremonies. As they recognize the learning and growth that has taken place over the years, they look to a new life that will begin, commencing, as students leave their alma maters to go out into the world.
Usually as part of those ceremonies, a “charge” is given to go out into the world and make a difference. Today Jesus gives us a charge. We call it the “Great Commission”. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”, Jesus says. “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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:16-20).

Jesus act of love of letting go of us is link with an act of trust. He trusts us to go out to all the nations and proclaim the Good News. I have always thought that the time between the Ascension and Pentecost was the time the disciples needed to acknowledge what had been entrusted to them and trust themselves, with the power of the Holy Spirit, to do it. There is a wonderful saying in Spanish, “Si, se puede”, “yes, it is possible”. Pentecost is a “Si, se puede” moment for the apostles, when they are able to say, “Yes, we can do it.
But Jesus’ goodbye is different from the other goodbyes we have heard or said in our lives. It is different because he says, “… remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20). How is he with us?
May 8th marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of VE Day, the day World War II ended in Europe. One of the songs that carried people through those difficult war years and gave them hope that they would be re-united with their loved ones was, “I’ll Be Seeing you”.
I’ll be seeing you
In all the old familiar places
That this heart of mine embraces
All day through.
Jesus is with us not only in familiar memories and places, although they can help us be aware that he is really with us, as he promised. He is in our hearts and in our minds. He is with us in our prayer, in the Sacred Scriptures we read. Those who suffer point us to the presence of Jesus in the world. The community of believers we call the Church is the Body of Christ alive in the world, and the sacraments of the Church, especially the Eucharist, make Jesus really present among us.
So, as we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus, let us pray that the Holy Spirit comes and empowers us to say yes to the Great Commission gives us today and say Si, se puede, We can do it.