The distance from St. Angela Merici to Terrace View Care Center is, at the most, only two miles. Yet, for a person who doesn’t know how to read a map or use GPS, it might take some creative ideas to guide that person to the Care Center. One possible solution would be using landmarks, e.g. turn right at the gas station and before the third signal light on your right will be the Care Center etc. For Jesus to make his disciples, who were mostly fishermen, understand he would no longer be appearing and disappearing like he did before, after the resurrection, he had to be creative too. That is why we hear a lot of figurative terms in the Ascension readings. These are a few impressive ones, for example, those who believe in my name will drive out demons; they will speak new languages; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them, etc. From last Sunday’s first reading, speaking new languages is a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit. The demons, the snake, and the poisons refer to evil things. Another memorable moment for the disciples to remember was when Jesus was taken up to heaven and took his seat at the right hand of the Father. We always think the most important guests sit at the right hand of the host. The phenomenon of Jesus flying out of space, or the chair on the cloud for Jesus to sit, could serve as landmarks to help the disciples understand Jesus’s divinity and his definite departure from this earth.
The departure of a loved one is always difficult but memorable. The purpose of the Ascension of the Lord perhaps is for the disciples to never forget the last instruction of the Lord: Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. This is a mission for all those who believe in Christ. As Catholics, we seldom follow this instruction because usually we feel we are not ready. I don’t blame anybody who feels that way. Imagine you are a student, would you like to take a test or exam in which you have not studied? However, spreading the message of the gospel is not so much about the knowledge of the gospel, but about our action conforming to Christ single teaching: love one another (last Sunday’s gospel).
As we look at what happened in the Ascension of Christ, it is about landmarks, directly implanted into our senses. Those who don’t know Christ would need landmarks to guide them towards Christ. Those landmarks are the actions of love. The action of love is just as powerful as the symbols presented in the gospel this Sunday. Do you remember The Hands across America event in 1986; in which 6.5 million people held hands across 48 states to raise money for the poor and the homeless? This act of love did not require any profound knowledge about the scriptures. As believers in Christ, I hope we would hear and remember the last word of Christ before departing from this earth: Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.