Reflection by Sister Jan Ginzkey, OSB
The Ascension of Our Lord
PS 103: 1-2, 11-12, 19-20\
I John 4:11 -16
In today’s reading from Acts, Peter states, “It is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us’, until he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to the Resurrection.” I believe Jesus and Pope Francis might not have put such narrow description of who is called to give witness today. In January 2021, Pope Francis changed church law to make explicit that lay women can act as readers and altar servers in liturgical celebrations effectively removing a previous option for individual bishops to restrict those ministries to only men. Most recently, Pope Francis published “motu proprio” which expands the notion that evangelization can be found among the laity.
This may seem daunting or intimidating to many of us, especially those like me, a strong introvert. I have always liked the quote often attributed to St. Francis. “Preach always, and if necessary, use words.” The question I have to ask myself is , “Do my actions, behaviors and attitude really speak loud enough for others to know I am a follower of Christ?” How can I or you be witnesses of the Resurrection?
John challenges us in the second reading today. He says, “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also must love one another.” Do I, do you, really believe we are the beloved of God? Sure, I know God created me and has given me abundant gifts, family, community, friends, food, a home, and all of creation.
John goes on to say, “If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love is brought to perfection.” How can I, a human being,
with my character defects, good and bad habits bring God’s love to perfection?
Sometimes, I am aware of God’s presence and blessings. I also know that sometimes I am oblivious or so focused on myself, a situation or problem that I forget Jesus is right with me waiting for me to respond in trust and gratitude. I believe the apostles’ awareness and understanding also waxed and waned.
I, and I think most of you, can identify with the apostles, as they listened to Jesus’ prayer in the gospel. I can see Peter, Thomas and Phillip scratching their heads in confusion. Jesus had guarded them, taught them, fished with them, shared meals and worked miracles that they witnessed. They knew the pascal mystery firsthand. Jesus had been crucified, died, and was buried. For the past forty days Jesus had appeared to them. He walked with them to Emmaus. He showed up in the locked room, exposed his wounds and ate a piece of fish. He fixed a fish breakfast for them on the beach, always saying, ”Peace be with you.”
Now Jesus is telling them he is going to the Father. He goes on in his conversation/prayer to tell us that God should not take us out of the world but that we be protected from evil. Jesus ends by saying, “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world. And I consecrate myself for them, so that they also may be consecrated in truth.”
One biblical meaning to consecrate was to set apart. Jesus uses another meaning in today’s gospel. When Jesus says I have consecrated them, he is saying they share in God’s holiness.
Do I or you really believe Jesus has consecrated each of us? Do we believe our consecration in the sacraments allow / mandate that we share God’s holiness? Are we ready to go into our world as witnesses of God’s love for all he has created? We live in a very polarized political, economic, and social world. We are still living with two major pandemics, COVID and Racism. In such an unbalanced world, how can we become one just as the Father and Jesus are one.
This past weekend we had a community meeting that for Benet Hill was a historic moment. We invited the oblates on the Oblate Advisory Team and those on the Futuring Team to sit at the tables with the sisters to create our Directional Statements for the next six years. Other members of the Futuring Team were observers of our discernment process. We know the Spirit was with us. We shared our hopes for the future of BHM. We identified the values and practices we want to carry into the future. We worked for a day and a half to allow everyone opportunity to share their wisdom and opinions. We listened with respect and moved from what I might want or vision to what God wants for our community in the future. It is possible to bond as one community reverencing and listening with the ear of our hearts.
I would like to end with a poem by J. Janda titled Mystical Rose.
white black brown
red or yellow
if you prays
you be all God-colored
which is to say
you be bathed
in the essence of God
you flow into him
he flow into you
you gonna forget
they never did help
but only if you willing
to put up with
a little darkness and pain
The present poem comes from the Janda s book, In Embrace.