The Ascension of The Lord

touchdownWhen a very fine school principal retires, we might overhear one of the teachers say, “It will be difficult for the school board to fill her shoes.” Or if a skilled and versatile worker dies of a heart attack, the boss might say, “It will be difficult to fill his shoes.” Filling the shoes of someone beloved, someone uniquely qualified, someone highly professional can be pretty daunting. Personalities definitely play a part. So, it’s not simply a matter of getting the work done; it’s also a matter of how the work gets done, which raises the question of relationship. The better one relates to others, the more difficult it is to fill that person’s shoes when he or she is gone. In this gospel, Jesus is taking his leave of the disciples. He commissions them to fill his shoes. My! Really?
We are not forced to proclaim the Gospel, nor do we do this on our own authority. We undertake our mission “through the Holy Spirit” (first reading) and manifest the Holy Spirit through our mission. But always the mission is Christ’s. At first this might seem an impossible commission: how can we expect to fill Jesus’ shoes? On our own authority we cannot. In addition to his commission to “proclaim the gospel,” Jesus also promised his disciples that signs would accompany their work attesting that Jesus remains with them.
What an awesome honor it is to be disciples of Christ—we fill his shoes! This mission describes our Christian living—preaching the Gospel. Ascension is a call to all the baptized, reminding us that baptism is far more than having original sin taken away; it is a receiving of the Spirit by which we are grafted onto the Body of Christ. Baptism is our Pentecost and it includes a mission. It initiates us into a way of life whereby we are of the Lord Jesus.
The gospel reminds us that the bearers of the Good News—those who continue Jesus’ saving mission today—are ordinary people. This would seem to be an overwhelming and impossible task. How can we fill Jesus’ shoes and continue the divine saving work? We can’t, on our own. But Jesus assured us that he would work with us. Always, the mission is Christ’s and we accomplish it by the strength and life of the Spirit who dwells in us who are baptized. It is the Spirit who works in us. This is why ordinary people can with enthusiasm, commitment, and love—and without question, fear, or hesitation—take up Jesus’ mission.