May 12 is Ascension Sunday. For the ecclesiastical provinces of Boston; Hartford, Conn.; New York; Newark, N.J.; Philadelphia; and Omaha, Neb., this is the Seventh Sunday of Easter, with the previous Thursday being Ascension Thursday. An ecclesiastical province is basically one large archdiocese and the dioceses that are historically associated with it.
Acts 1:1-11; 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; Ephesians 1:17-23; Luke 24:46-53
"Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking up at the sky?"
That’s what the angels ask the apostles today, and that’s what they ask us, too.
Why are they looking up at the sky? They have been dazzled by the greatness of God, by Jesus’ last amazing act, and have been lulled into a kind of stasis. The Master had directed their lives throughout his public ministry. Their job was simple: Do what Jesus said. After he died, they were lost.
But Jesus gathered them together again and told them what they were meant to do. First, they have to wait for "the promise of the Father" and "be baptized with the Holy Spirit" or "clothed with power from on high." After that, they are to "be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth."
This is a huge, difficult transition for them.
It is also the transition that the Church has to make.
Pope John Paul II led the way, promoting the mission of the laity through encyclicals, World Youth Days and the Jubilee Year. Pope Benedict XVI embraced that emphasis in the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization. Pope Francis is promoting it, too, in this Year of the Faith.
Suddenly, like the apostles on the hill of Galilee, we might feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. We shouldn’t be.
Our first task is the same as for the apostles: Turn to God in prayer and allow him to have a relationship with us.
St. Paul sums it up: The Father has raised Christ up and "put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the Church, which is his body."
So don’t stand there looking at the sky. Christ’s body, the Church, is down here on the earth, and it’s in doing his will here that we are supposed to find him.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.