Readings: Acts 1:1-11, Psalm 47, Response: God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.; Ephesians 1: 17-23; Gospel—Matthew 28: 16-20
Many consider the Ascension and the Pentecost the completion of the Paschal Mystery. If the Cross and Resurrection spell the definitive victory of Jesus accomplishing the Divine Mission, the Ascension is the entrusting of this mission to us with the “tools” and the guarantee of the Spirit.
This is our first theme as we reflect on the Ascension, the mission entrusted to us. The place or the setting of this “co-missioning” is important from the perspective of scripture and day-to-day life.
In scripture, the mountain is always a privileged place where a distinct moment of grace occurs. It is the special meeting point between the divine and the human. It was on a mountain where Moses received the Ten Commandments; where Elijah encountered God; where Jesus’ glory was revealed to his disciples in the Transfiguration; and now, the Ascension.
This is a special moment of grace in our mission journey. What are these “mountain moments” in our life? I will leave you to reflect on this and “fill in the blanks,” but allow me to share some sign posts.
First, the mountain moment as a moment of solitude and prayer. “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46: 10)
Fr. Pedro Arrupe, SJ, in fraternal and grandfatherly advice to the young Jesuit scholastics in his valedictory, said that they must “learn to waste time with God” in prayer, in the chapel.
And here, it is not the length of time, but the quality of the moment. The length of time helps us nurture the grace, but it must be quality time, too. Practice makes “perfect,” provided it is quality practice.
Miracle of life
Second, the mountain moments as ordinary moments of our day. Let me quote two masters, one in literature and one in spirituality and prayer.
In his book “By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept,” Paulo Coelho wrote: “We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen. Every day, God gives us the sun—and also one moment in which we have the ability to change everything that makes us unhappy. Every day, we pretend we do not perceive that moment, that it doesn’t exist…
“But if people really pay attention to their everyday lives, they will discover the magic moment. It may arrive in the instant when we are doing something mundane… it may lie hidden in the quiet that follows the lunch hour, or in the thousand and one things that all seem the same. But that moment exists—a moment when all the power of the stars becomes part of us and enables us to perform miracles.”
St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spirituality has finding God in all things as the gold standard. Fr. Howard Gray, SJ, one of the masters of Ignatian Spirituality, wrote: “Attention, reverence and devotion establish the process for finding God in all things.”
Attention is being present to the moment and to others in an attentive manner, i.e., a listening and open disposition, thus allowing reality to unfold as it is.
Gray added: “Then reverence what you see before you. Reverence is giving acceptance to, cherishing the differences of, holding in awe the uniqueness of another reality.
“And if you learn to do this… then you will gradually discover devotion, the singularly moving way in which God works in that situation, revealing goodness and fragility, beauty and truth, pain and anguish, wisdom and ingenuity.”
The Ignatian Daily Examen provides a process and a movement of grace—but this is for another reflection altogether.
In the ordinary moment of our day-to-day, we find God in all things, and in reverence and devotion that brings us the stillness of our heart and spirit, we will know he is God.
Third, the life-changing moments of grace, Fr. Benny Calpotura, SJ, pointed out, are few and far between. Building on what we have reflected on as mountain moments, these life-changing moments we can compare to a beatific vision, when with great clarity we know in our heart and soul that this is what God wants us to do. This is my life mission, the mission I can dedicate and devote my life to.
Our second, much shorter set of points to ponder is the co-missioning itself. The Risen Lord said, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations…”
Here, the task is to “make disciples,” to increase the followers of the Risen Lord, disciples who follow and learn from the Lord by imitating the pattern of his life, death and Resurrection. This is the mission, and we are called, summoned and sent to proclaim the Good News.
There are many qualities of such sharing in the mission, but let me highlight two. One is loving obedience to the Father’s will, what God wants us to do. Outside of this love, it is not a mission that brings the fullness of grace that can be channeled through us.
Two is mission as proclaiming and living out the quality of our relationship with God. In Jesus we saw this, that he is the beloved Son in whom the Father is well pleased. This was the beatific vision of his identity and mission, the what and the why of his mission.
Thus, it is important to know—and to take ownership of—our identity and mission as rooted and grounded in the quality of our relationship with God.
And here let me point out, not just who God is to us, but who we are before God.
The third set of reflections is actually one point, but rich in its simplicity: “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age”—the ending of today’s Gospel.
So, we go back to where we started, knowing, feeling, discerning the presence of the Risen Lord in our life—a loving, providential presence; the mountain moment. This is what we bring into the world, coming down from the mountain to proclaim who the Risen Lord is to us and who we are before, with and in him. —CONTRIBUTED