May 28, 2017 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause
May 28, 2017
Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11/Matthew 28:16-20
Fr. George Smiga
When today’s first reading from the Book of Acts describes Jesus’ Ascension, it says that Jesus was lifted up and a cloud removed him from the disciples’ sight. It also says that the disciples kept intently looking at the place in the sky where Jesus had ascended. Then, it tells us that two angels appeared and said to the disciples, “Men of Galilee why do you stand there looking up at the sky?” Now the answer to the angels’ question is obvious. The disciples stood looking at the sky because that was the place from which Jesus had left them. Although they always knew that Jesus would be present to them spiritually, they understood that from this point forward they would not be able to see him as they did during his ministry and after his resurrection. Things had changed. Jesus would no longer be physically present to them. So they stood looking looking up into the sky, looking after what they had lost.
As long as we live, our lives will change, and in those changes we will lose things that are valuable to us. It might be the loss of a particularly fulfilling job placement. It might the loss of our health. It might be the loss of a person that we love through death. But when something that is dear to us is taken away from us, then we like the disciples are inclined to look up, fixating on what we once had, but is no longer ours. It is for this reason that the next words of the angels are important, not only to the disciples but to us. The angels say, “This Jesus who has been taken up to heaven will return again in the same way that you saw him go.” You see, the angels do not dispute the fact that Jesus has left. His visible appearance is a thing of the past. But they promise the disciples that he will come to them again in a new way.
The angels’ message to us is this: When one good thing is taken away, another good thing will be given. This is why we cannot stand looking at what we have lost. We need eyes to see the next good thing, the next blessing that is possible in our lives. When things change in our jobs, in our family, in our country, it does us no good to think over and over, “I wish things were the way that they used to be.” Instead we must look for those places where new possibilities emerge. When our health fails, when we lose energy and perhaps mobility, when someone we love, a spouse or a friend, dies, the way forward is not to think over and over again what we used to be able to do and who was there to do it with us. The way forward is to believe that there are new ways to live, new paths to joy, and new relationships to support us.
When one good thing is taken away, another good thing will be given. The scriptures today challenge us to believe this message of the angels. They remind us not to stand looking up into the sky, looking at what we have lost. If our eyes are always in the sky, we will not be able to see the next good thing that God is bestowing on us here below.