This homily was given at Ascension Sunday masses at St. Jude Church, Lewes, Delaware. May 28, 2017
What is the Ascension? Some might say, After the Resurrection , Jesus finished what he had to do, so he gathered on a hill with his friends, told them, now it’s up to you, and, he floated up, up, and away.
Others might use images, the gift of imagination, to talk about something, which really, is beyond knowing. The possibility of what the Ascension celebrates can go flat quickly if we get stuck in some literal interpretation, if we limit it to a story about Jesus defying gravity.
The Ascension IS about seeing. An experience of the Jesus event that shines a light, allowing us a glimpse into the mystery of love and life Yes, it is recalled as something that happened in those early years of the Jesus movement, when followers were trying to figure out the way… What is the Way of the Lord?
It is both theology and spirituality, woven together into something the Nuns taught us was mystery. As we got older we concluded that the good Sisters would rely on “mystery” when they didn’t have a real answer.
But the Sisters were actually right. They were trying to teach us that “mystery” requires us to “leave the ground of certainty, let go of what can only be “known” in limited ways… and be willing to embrace that which is “beyond.”
So if God is wrapped in mystery, then that’s where we must go. If ou desire a living faith, you’ve got to ponder “mystery.” As we do so, we realize that the that mystery always has a clear parallel in how our lives touch the lives of others in very ordinary and yet wonderfully life-giving way: Living teaches us that there is great power in “arriving” and in “leaving.” Life means “being in relationship,” choosing our words carefully and speaking words that nurture, and more often than we may realize, allowing Silence and Stillness in our daily lives… Quiet and solitude and Silence have an ability to nurture, profoundly necessary in a world that is full of noise pollution.
So the story of the “Ascension” describes things like: arriving at the end, Jesus was leaving; his friends were together, but Silent; they had reached the point of goodbye and … yes, the ending “goodbye” is like death.. We are created so that we can share our Presence, our life, with others.
And Presence is fully realized b/c we have known “absence.” There is a blessing that can only happen… by going away.
To depart. To leave someone is hard. It’s so very sad. When someone you love… is gone, Jesus tells us, “You will be sad for a time…. but there is more.
The faith story that shapes us says: Stop looking away from life into emptiness. Why are you looking where the one who departed can no longer be seen? You now have the chance to receive the Holy Spirit of Life …to receive the blessing that can only come…. when someone has gone away.
Memorial Weekend. What does it celebrate? Memorial. To remember. Certainly all who have given their lives in service, but really, the Memorial of all whom we have loved and seem gone. Jesus said to remember is to make real. Remember and I will be present, always. At this table. In what we share with each other, it’s all communion. We have a choice for “holy” communion.
If you live here at the beach, or, you have the opportunity and the ability to come to the beach, either way, you are blessed. All the traffic and the possibility of nasty weather and the probability of too many people, smelling of coconut oil and playing music way too loud and wearing clothes they would only wear here. You accept all of that b/c the blessing is worth it.
To stand at the edge of a continent… and look out over a body of water whose rhythm, whose pulse is so reliable, so dependable, people call her the Mother… this great body of Life that is moved by the shadows of the moon… the Ocean has great power, it moves us too.
We gaze at the ocean, we are pulled in to its mystery. We look to the horizon and see, endless. It soothes the heart and heals the soul. Here, on a crowded beach, we can encounter that stillness and solitude and Silence…. You look around and you see others gazing out into its grandeur… and you don’t say, “What are you looking at?” “What are you waiting for?” You know.
You too were the child who played at the water’s edge, who spent endless summers celebrating the joy of each and every day… it was your young, longing eyes that were fixed on that endless mystery… you knew then, you believed… it was so easy….the promise is always so accessible to the trusting heart of a child. You realized there really is something “beyond.” We all realized. And that’s why we return. In mystery, the child arrives to meet you again. And the words confirm what has been proclaimed: I am with you always.
To remember. To make real, again. To experience the fullness of Life and Love in a moment, at a place, in time, where we once stood, and by grace we stand again. Believing. Hoping. Trusting. Remembering.
Being Present and knowing that miracles happen, that He will return, we will see Her again, they will embrace each of us, again.
The Ascension. Looking up…up, and away… celebrating the gift of this one, wild and precious life.
Thanks be to God.