May 28, The Ascension of the Lord
1) Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47:2-3, 6-9
2) Ephesians 1:17-23
Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20
I’ve had the privilege of being present when two of my nephews were commissioned as Marine officers. They had been through months of rigorous academic, physical and leadership training, and it was a proud moment for their parents when the new officers, resplendent in their “dress blues,” received their second lieutenant pins.
The most moving part of the commissioning ceremony was the officers’ oath, ending with the solemn words, “I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservations or purpose of evasion. … I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office upon which I am about to enter, so help me God.”
My nephews’ commissioning marked the beginning of a commitment of service to their country and their fellow Marines. Although the details of their future deployments were as then unknown, they had been well prepared, authorized and empowered for the work that would be asked of them.
Today’s readings are about a different kind of commissioning — often referred to as “the great commission.” The 11 disciples, prepared and taught by Jesus during his ministry, passion, death and resurrection, assembled in Galilee as they had been instructed.
The writings of Matthew and Luke affirm both the given assignment — to be witnesses to Jesus’ Lordship to the entire world (evangelization) — and the power to accomplish it, through the awaited gift of the Holy Spirit. While each disciple probably had “mental reservations” and the occasional temptation to evade his commission, Jesus’ promise to be always with his body, the church, gave them the authority and the courage to fulfill their calling.
Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, “Evangelii Gaudium,” says: “All the baptized, whatever their position in the church or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization, and it would be insufficient to envisage a plan of evangelization to be carried out by professionals while the rest of the faithful would simply be passive recipients. … Indeed, anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love.”
We, the baptized, are authorized by the Father, clothed in Christ and empowered by the Holy Spirit — and our solemn oath is the promise made in baptism. It’s time for deployment.
When is the last time you shared your experience of “God’s saving love” with someone? How can you rely more on the Holy Spirit’s power to equip you as Jesus’ witness?