ASCENSION AND COMMUNICATION
By Lisa Fernandes
Today is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord and World Communications Day; appropriately enough today’s Psalm speaks of shouting, as well as singing praises to God. The Ascension, also known as the Great Commission, followed Jesus’ parting words from the gospel – the last direct encounter of Jesus with the disciples – when he says the following before he ascends to heaven: “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, until the end of the age” (Matt. 28:19-20).
We acknowledge this at every mass when we say the Apostles Creed. In his address for today’s 51st World Communications Day, Pope Francis ties the two together. First he talks about communication as he asks “…everyone to offer the people of our time storylines that are at heart ‘good news'”. Then he talks about the Ascension: “Our hope based on the good news which is Jesus himself makes us lift up our eyes to contemplate the Lord in the liturgical celebration of the Ascension.”
I was reminded of the idea of storylines from Pope Francis’ address at a talk by Bishop Paul Tighe (Adjunct Secretary with the Vatican Council for Culture) in the recent Annual Christianity and the Arts Lecture, “The Church and Contemporary Art”. He said we need a culture of encounter or dialogue with others. Art plays a role in taking this dialogue forward; art invites us to be attentive in a distracted world – an idea I appreciate as someone who has studied art history and loves spending time in museums and galleries. As Bishop Tighe said, art is universal, and the church originally needed artists as they made stories accessible to those who could not read. We all want to be in the know which is why we check our mobile devices constantly. In our age of FOMO (fear of missing out) and increased social media we might be losing the essence of dialogue as more and more dialogue is taking place between an individual and their mobile device rather than with people. So on this dual day of celebration, maybe take a minute to put down your mobile device, take in an art show and “be here now” as they used to say in the 70s – and then discuss the art you’ve seen with others.
LOST IN TRANSLATION
By Tina Sibbald
“Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you.”
Have you ever been online and, on viewing comments or content in a language you don’t know, use a program such as Google® translate to figure out what you are reading? Somehow, the translation seems awkward, and you know grammar and syntax are all messed up. But at least you get the gist of what is going on.
It kind of feels just like that reading 1 Peter. “Make your defense” sounds, well, so defensive. It has this back-against-the-wall connotation like we have to come out swinging in defense of Jesus. Is there anything less attractive than a Christian who is angry for the wrong reasons?
The reality is that if we all understood Greek it would all make so much more sense. “Make your defense” is the best translation from the Greek apologia, which has nothing to do with being apologetic or sorry. It means to give a reason for our faith.
Of course, in an academically oriented parish, I hardly need to explain the study of apologetics to our students, but for the rest of us, there is a lesson here.
It really matters HOW we make the case for Christ, and if we can’t find ways to do it by example, well, it just seems futile. When we are vengeful, spiteful, or judgmental towards those who just don’t understand what Christ did for us, how could we hope to set an example? We are all imperfect, so how can our righteous indignation win people to Christ? It is only kindness, compassion and empathy, that can accomplish this.
Coming from a church background which condoned shaming and humiliating and rallying in angry protest against anyone whose life did not fit into a narrow view of what a Christian should be, I have since spent significant time considering how I can show the love of Christ in a broad and inclusive way. It really matters HOW we make the case for Christ. While none of us is perfect, we are called to be examples to the best of our imperfect abilities.
I, for one, will miss the way in which Fr. Chris has exemplified the quiet and respectful manner in which we can win people for Christ. Sometimes it is all about what you don’t say, but rather what you do. I will always cherish his example.
How might your quiet actions win someone for Christ this week?
Acts 8.5-8, 14-17
1 Peter 3.15-18
THE WAY, THE TRUTH, AND THE LIFE
By Emily VanBerkum
I find it very interesting and relatable that even after Jesus’ resurrection, his disciples continue to ask clarifying questions. Thomas asks for clarity on how to remain a follower of Christ since it was unclear where Jesus was going. In a documentary on Christology, Bishop Barron commented that some religious leaders or spiritual gurus throughout history have directed their followers’ attention to a method, theory, or way of living. Jesus Christ drew followers to himself saying “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”
The Gospels are full of stories in which we have plenty of evidence that Jesus spoke and acted in “the very person of God.” Jesus did not simply offer followers a spiritual methodology, he gave of himself as the embodiment of the way to God directly- as the very wellspring through which God’s own love and compassion, power and awe flow.
Still confused, Philip asks to see the Father. Even after witnessing great miracles, and participating in Jesus’ earthly ministry, Philip demands that Jesus show him the very source of his authority. Jesus simply replies “believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” I cannot really fault Thomas. It is very human to want proof. Also, theologians have wrestled with Christ’s divine Sonship for centuries. However, in this passage, Jesus asserts that- as God- His works speak for themselves and that, incredibly “the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father.”
In this statement, Jesus effectively answers both Thomas and Philip. By the power of the resurrection, believers in Christ were granted a permanent relationship and that modeling Christ as the Way is a sign of our own participation in God’s words and works on earth.
Acts 6.1-7 1