Yesterday we celebrated the feast of the Ascension. It of course took me somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 minutes to find where the readings for the Mass were located in my prayer book. You see, the ACTUAL feast of the Ascension is 40 days after Easter, thereby making last Thursday the real feast day. However, last Thursday was also the feast of St. Matthias, so there were readings for his feast day as well. Confusing.
Thankfully we got to Mass early and the family in the pew in front of us with the two boys (one somewhere around 5 and the other seemingly newborn, and preemie at that) hadn’t yet arrived so I wasn’t yet distracted by watching the baby slowly slip out of the arms of his brother, whose mother inexplicably thought letting him hold his brother without her paying any attention was a good idea. I know, I know. I’m supposed to be praying. I was. Praying that Mom would turn around before little baby boy slipped much further. I seriously was poised to dive and catch.
At any rate, I found the readings and listened to Luke’s story of Jesus’ ascension from the Acts of the Apostles as well as St. Mark’s brief reference to the same thing at the end of his gospel. During the homily, when I should have been listening to our priest who is from India and very difficult to understand, I was instead thinking about the television show on Sunday nights called A.D. The Bible Continues. I’m recording it and watching it later, and so I recently watched the episode in which Jesus ascended into heaven. In the television show, his disciples sort of seem to take it all in stride. It seems to me in real life they must have been FREAKING OUT. After all, this weird thing was taking place in which Jesus disappears in a bright light, only a short time after he appeared to them having risen from the dead. My friends, it seems like a lot to digest.
But maybe even more than that, it seems like they must have been thinking, “OH MY LORD IN HEAVEN! What do we do now?” After all, Jesus had clearly instructed them to continue his teachings and to build his church. But unless they were considerably smarter than I, they must have found his teachings confusing and vague and how in heavens do we explain that Jesus ROSE FROM THE DEAD AND JUST NOW ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN?
I guess at some point they must have concluded that his teachings really weren’t that vague or confusing. Love God and love your neighbor as much as you love yourself. That’s pretty much it.
But if I’m getting nothing else from the above-mentioned television show (besides noticing just how doggone gorgeous the actors who play Jesus and his disciples are which makes me think I’m committing at least a venial sin), I’m realizing that those 12 apostles and, in fact, all of Jesus’ original disciples and followers, were BRAVE. Really, when you think how brave they were, how can you doubt that Jesus was in fact the Messiah? Those men and women clearly were steadfast in their belief that Jesus is God and he died and rose to save us from our sins. They placed themselves in danger every day to tell the rest of the world this good news.
I was startled out of my reverie when I heard Father say, “And, in conclusion…..” Thank goodness. His conclusion was that we all need to continue the work of the early disciples and spread the good news about Jesus Christ.
While there is likely no way I could ever have been as brave as Stephen and Andrew and Peter and Phillip and Thomas and all of the others who died while trying to tell the world about Jesus, I can be brave enough to talk about my faith to others. I’m probably not going to get stoned.