1. -- Lanie
2. -- Carol &
3. -- Brian
4. -- Paul
reflection can be here!)
The Ascension of the Lord 2020
Our three readings this day, the Ascension of the Lord,
are guideposts for our days ahead. The first reading from
Acts is a summary of post-Resurrection events. The second
selection from the letter to the Ephesians contains a prayer
of hope and encouragement. The Gospel according to Matthew
includes what we are now to do about these events and our
role in the future. These readings are indeed fitting to
help us stay the course while we are still dealing with the
effects of the current pandemic but oh, so ready, to move
forward in a positive way.
The first reading looks at the events in Jesus's ministry
in hindsight or better yet, through the perspective of God.
God initiated the events, graced them with a positive
outcome, and provided "the promise of the Father". We, too,
need to focus on the "promise of the Father", the Holy
Spirit, Who is to come upon us again shortly.
The second reading helps us think about what we need to
keep us going in the right direction. Could we all not use a
bit more of wisdom, enlightenment, and hope these days? We
do indeed need to be reminded of our inheritance and the
riches of God's glory so we won't give up.
Right now would be a wonderful time, don'tcha think?, for
God to exercise great might and the surpassing greatness of
his power to end this pandemic! Well, I know, in God's time,
not mine! In the meantime, we are offered a GREAT and truly
uplifting promise in the Gospel passage. Jesus said that he
will be with us always until the end of the age.
That promise is the foundation of how we are to respond
to the directive to "go and make disciples of all nations...
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you."
Wow, I am having just a bit more difficulty doing what I am
supposed to be doing these days within myself and within my
family. All nations? What a tough job assignment..., but
then there is our confident and empowering BOSS.
Our "boss" is not only a Jewish carpenter, but really our
Triune God. We have Someone who gives us all the tools and
encouragement we need to "do greater things" than Jesus, the
Jewish Carpenter and Son of God. All we need is to "be
still" and listen to how, even in this absurd and maddening
time of confusion.
We all, unwillingly, have had to stop, or at least slow
down, to take inventory of our times and our lives. May we
allow God to transform that time for us into a productive
way to "recalculate" what is truly important in life. May
that information guide us to live the call which we each
have been given. Come, Holy Spirit!
Ascension and Seventh Sunday of Easter Reflection
Ascension Thursday May 20 2020 (Celebrated in U.S.
on the Seventh Sunday of Easter)
Acts 1:1-11; Responsorial Psalm 47; Ephesians
1:17-23; Gospel Acclamation Matthew 28:19A & 20B; Matthew
The gospels tell us that Jesus walked with his disciples
for forty days following his Resurrection. This was more
than a visit. Jesus spoke with them, explained his ministry,
the Father’s plan for creation, and the necessity of his
death and the Resurrection. Jesus did not choose to appear
to the multitudes. Such an appearance would have created a
great following. But those multitudes of Jews would have
armed themselves and prepared for a revolt against the
occupying Romans. The Kingdom of God would have be
misunderstood as a kingdom of power that was based on a
violent overthrow. It would have been a kingdom the Jews
defined, not the Kingdom of God intended by the Father. Bit
by bit Jesus explained the Kingdom God had in mind. It
required a radical change in their belief. Had Jesus
preached to the crowds what would have been their response?
Would they not have focused on the miracle of his
Resurrection as a sign of infinite power? Would they force
him to take a crown and reestablish the glory and power of
David’s kingdom? It was apparent he overcame a horrific
death everyone saw, participated in, or at least heard
about. If he could overcome death at the hands of the iron
fist of Rome, betrayed as he was by the worldly,
power-hunger, wealth-pursuing religious leaders, surely, he
was capable of bringing together all the Hebrew Tribes from
the far-off lands! The hordes would return from exiles and
business arrangements to their ancestral home. Certainly,
this nation whose ancestors had been released from slavery
in Egypt possessed the wealth, the manpower, and the will to
fight for a revitalization of their nation! What a great
army this would be to overthrow the Romans! Surely, Jesus
could revitalize the Law of Moses in the culture and rituals
of this chosen people.
The first reading indicates the topic of discussion
during these forty days following that first day of the
week, the beginning of the Resurrected Christ. Jesus
explained his ministry, his passion and death, and his
Resurrection as the establishment of the Kingdom of God.
However, even after forty days as the disciples gathered,
they asked if now was the time that the Kingdom of Israel
would be restored. The reading does not say it was this one
or that one who asked that question. It seems all of them
had not yet gotten it into their heads about the nature and
purpose of the Kingdom Jesus had established.
If ever we think that we would be different if we walked
with Jesus during his ministry, their question is a sign to
us that we also would have failed to understand. These
disciples observed, walked with, and heard Jesus’ teachings.
This was no classroom teacher with formulas or methods.
Jesus demonstrated repeatedly over those years by healing,
teaching, preaching, and private instruction. In the final
hours of Jesus before his death, all the healings,
teachings, and preaching were summed up in is death. These
disciples knew of his scourging, of his rejection by the
crowds, his journey to calvary and his blood spilt on the
ground. Even they failed to understand the message of those
events. New hope for a powerful kingdom rose in their hearts
when they experienced him raised up. It was marvelous, it
was wonderful, it was miraculous! Surely this was the one
promised through centuries of struggle by the kingdom of
If these disciples after forty days of review of Jesus’
three years of words, works, suffering through death, and
ultimately in resurrection failed to understand, how can we
think we would have understood? Even now, do we understand
the Kingdom of God? Do we choose to live in that Kingdom or
do we remain in the kingdom occupied by Romans and religious
leaders whose work is administration, ritual, and
selfishness? It is clear that we would not have been
different because even now we often fail to understand the
Kingdom of God.
This celebration of the Ascension of Jesus, the return to
the Father with his mission accomplished, is the beginning
of a beginning. Jesus established the Kingdom of God by his
ministry and his passion and death. What is left for us is
to discern and understand God’s definition of his Kingdom.
The Hebrew tribes – not merely those of the tribe of Judah –
all considered themselves the Chosen People. They were
descendants of Father Abraham and by his commitment to the
One God inherited the promise given Abraham. Abraham was the
"father of a great people," the meaning of the name given
him by God. He had been Abram before he said yes to God.
The tribes had an exceedingly difficult history. In that
little slice of land along the Mediterranean, they were on a
highway prized by the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the
Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and every other
nation seeking control of trade, of wealth, and of
domination. Their land knew the tramp of conquering armies.
This high traffic slice of land exposed to pagans of every
nation who traveled or conquered there, the faith of the
Chosen People in One God.
The Kingdom of God is the prize. Sharing in that Kingdom
requires faith and an understanding born of the heart and
not the mind. Listen to the disciples on the day of his
Ascension home to the Father: "Lord, are you at this time
going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" After three years
and forty days of intense preparation, the disciples still
do not get the message. Jesus tells them that is up to the
Father to determine when the Kingdom is completed. It is a
laughable thing that even despite Jesus’ statement, many
preachers throughout history have searched the Scriptures,
use mathematical formulas to determine the dates of the
Second Coming. They base their preaching and careers on
specific dates or promises of being raised up into clouds as
observers of the slaughter of Armageddon. Jesus tells it the
time for the end of the world is in the Father’s hands not
ours. Our role, our efforts are to bring to apply the
principles of the Kingdom in the moments of our living. That
Kingdom is not about power, it is not about domination, and
it is not about winners and losers.
Some time ago, in a small Michigan parish that had fallen
onto hard times, a new pastor sought the help of the laity
in renewing the parish. The parish had been led by a priest
whose health had deteriorated and who suffered from
Alzheimer. A group of three couples met for pot luck,
conversation, and prayer each Friday evening for six weeks.
The conversations found direction in the writings of the
Second Vatican Council and its principles of collegiality,
solidarity, and subsidiarity. It seemed those principles
were how the Kingdom of God could work in parish
communities. Attendance at Mass had dwindled. Sacramental
instruction had fallen into a fundamentalist piety dependent
on compliance. Rituals lacked energy and participation. At
first the group wondered what "church" should mean. They
wanted to understand why the disciples needed Pentecost’s
Spirit to understand. The group recruited twelve additional
couples and then expanded to seventy-two. A retreat at the
diocesan retreat center was arranged. The goal was to
develop structures for the parish to engage the energies and
understandings of the community. At the heart of the effort
was the urgency of finding ways of engaging all parishioners
in parish life. So much of what existed had been little
isolated groups in competition for prestige and authority.
At one of the sessions, the three first couples presented a
skit emulating the first council of the Church, the council
of Jerusalem. It was that council which opened the Kingdom
to the Gentiles; that meeting of the apostles changed the
trajectory of the faith of the Jews to be inclusive of all
nations. The characters put on robes over their clothes, as
a way of representing those ancient times. The skit
portrayed the council as a dialogue, of give and take, of
seeking answers to the question of who can belong to the
Kingdom of God. When a collective decision was arrived at,
the actors removed the symbols of ancient days, returning to
contemporary street dress. This was to be the council of St.
Mary’s in the late twentieth century. As discussions milled
about, one of first participants began to insist that what
was needed was a clear organizational chart built from the
top down. To this one other of the first three couples leapt
to his feet and in an angry voice shouted, "Damn it, Dick,
this is not about power!" The outburst silenced the group.
Finally, one wise participant requested a break. We came
back together – working hard to avoid setting up power
structures. Instead structures for an inclusive community
were developed. In this little story, we see just how
difficult it is to shed the methods of the world in our
church. The Kingdom of God initiated by the Christ is
energized and held together not by power, or wealth, or even
prestige. The Kingdom of God is about loving one another and
the God of us all. That is the lesson of the Cross –
unconditional love. That is the source and energy of the
Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is not a kingdom of power. Through the
centuries of Christianity, there has always been a push
toward power. At times, the Popes donned armor and used the
sword to establish a worldly kingdom. At times clergy has
used the fear of hell to control and dominate. At times
church leadership has cozied up to secular power to gain a
foothold at the table of control. None of these are helpful
in establishing the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is
not about power, it is not about wealth, it is not about
Jesus is clear in this first reading. "You will receive
power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be
my witnesses to the ends of the earth." The power of the
Holy Spirit is not about armies, it is not about domination.
It is about witnessing. The Kingdom of God is based not on
wealth, power, or influence. It is based on the message we
learn from the ministry of Jesus, from his trials, from his
suffering, from his death, and most assuredly from his
Resurrection. His entire public life is about love. That is
how we witness to him: that is how we contribute to the
Kingdom of God and cause it to grow.
In this difficult and frightening time when the entire
world suffers from a virus, we are lifted up by the love of
first responders, of nurses and doctors, of cleaning
personnel, of police and firemen. We are lifted up by
teachers and parents who continue the work of educating the
young. We are lifted up by the thousands of people
contributing to food pantries and by those who volunteer
there. We are lifted up by the prayers of millions of
persons whose physical conditions prevent them from helping.
We are encouraged by those with means of production who
forsake personal enrichment that takes advantage of disease.
All are witnesses to the Kingdom of God established by Jesus
who is the Christ, the Anointed One. That is the Kingdom!
The Spirit sent to empower us, is the third person of the
Trinity. The Trinity is a community of three, bound into one
by love. The Kingdom of God is not about dominating a
community, controlling that community, or enriching oneself
at the expense of that community.
I always chuckle at the question of the two men dressed
in white garments. The image that comes to mind is a bunch
of grown men looking to the clouds with their mouths agape.
"Why are you looking up at the sky? There’s work to be done.
You have been commissioned. Have at it!" That is the message
this Ascension Thursday. There’s work to be done. There is
witnessing to give by the expressions of love for others and
for the world in which we live. Let us have at it!
The message of Ascension is that Jesus has returned to
the Father. He leaves us here to be his presence among
humanity. That is a really big and important role we must
Seventh Sunday of Easter May 24, 2020
Acts 1:12-14; Responsorial Psalm 27; 1st Peter
4:13-16; Gospel Acclamation John 14:18; John 17:1-11
This seventh Sunday of Easter is often dropped in favor
of a Sunday celebration of the Ascension. Yet the readings
this Sunday are a continuation of the readings of Ascension.
While Jesus has been taken up and removed physically from
our presence, the message is that he remains – he remains
within us. His work, his message, his Kingdom lives on.
Jesus is no mere spot in history – he was born, he grew up,
he took on a career, he gave up his career to preach and
heal, he was convicted on trumped up charges, he suffered
from the cruelty of men, he died an agonizing death, he was
buried, but on the third day he was raised from the tomb and
appeared to his disciples for forty days. But that is not
all there is.
In the first reading the disciples return to Jerusalem
from the mount called Olivet. There is a conflict between
this writing of Luke in the Acts of the Apostles and the
Gospel of Matthew. This reading from Acts indicates that the
disciples were told to stay in Jerusalem to await the coming
of the Spirit. Luke places Jesus’ ascension on the mount of
Olivet. By tradition, that mount is where people thought
Jesus would return at the second coming. In the gospel of
Matthew, the disciples return to Galilee, the place where
Jesus began his public ministry. There are two different
purposes written and we should not become concerned about
the place of Jesus Ascension, only what the writers sought
to convey by the location. Matthew is interested in showing
that Jesus had completed the work of establishing the
Kingdom of Heaven. Thus, he has Jesus return to the Father
from the place where he began his work for the Kingdom. Luke
is interested in connecting the completion of Jesus personal
appearance with the place where tradition believed Jesus
would return in his Second Coming. That Second Coming would
signal the completion of the Kingdom of God.
In the first reading for this Seventh Sunday, the
apostles set about the task of replacing Judas who had
despaired because of his betrayal of Jesus. In contrast,
Peter who also denied Jesus three times, accepts Jesus’
forgiveness – "Peace be with you!"—when Jesus came into the
upper room after the Resurrection. The first mission of the
Apostles was to preach the good news to the twelve tribes.
So a twelfth person was needed to be assigned preaching to
one of the twelve tribes.
In the second reading, Peter tells us we share in the
sufferings of the Christ. When all is completed, the glory,
the magnificence that Jesus lives in the presence of the
Father, that magnificence will also be ours --- forever!
Peter warns us, however, that this sharing is not merely
that we suffer. If we suffer because of a choice to be a
thief, an evildoer, a murderer, or an intriguer then our
suffering is not a sharing in the suffering of Jesus. If we
are made to suffer because we are Christians, then we should
not be ashamed of the state such suffering brings us.
Christians are those who live according to the Kingdom
established by Jesus.
The challenge of the message for this Seventh Sunday’s
liturgy of the Word comes to us from John’s gospel. This is
the prayer of Jesus at John’s presentation of the
instruction and prayers of Jesus at the Last Supper. What is
interesting is that Jesus prays for those who continue to
live in the world. The words of Jesus are clear and worth
thinking about. "I do not pray for the world but for the
ones you have given me, because they are yours, and
everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine,
and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer
be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am
coming to you."
For a long period of time, the church acted as though
only those in monasteries, in convents, or in the clerical
state were called to holiness. The hope for those not in
those states of life came from serving persons in those
states of life. With the work of the Second Vatican Council,
two great teachings were applied to the laity. The first is
that every person is called to holiness and has access to
that holiness within the Kingdom of God. And the second
great teaching is that the married state founded in love
through its intimacy, through its sacrifice, is a path to
holiness and practical witness to the God’s love for his
people. Marriage is significantly more than a cure for
concupiscence or solely for the procreation of children.
We should remember how this Sunday’s gospel begins. Jesus
speaks to his Father. "Father, the hour has come. Give glory
to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you
gave him authority over all people, so that your son may
give eternal life to all you gave him." How strange for
Jesus to thank the Father for the witness of his death. That
witness was a witness to any and all who would understand
with clear eyes and an open heart that Jesus’ death is a
witness to the love God has for his creation.
It is in death that heroes are recognized for the work
and the intentions of their hearts. Often when a hero dies,
we reflect on the life of that person and come to recognize
what that person became in his/her life. So it is with us as
well. Throughout our living we are constantly becoming --
growing or decaying. There is no other choice other than
growth or decay. Death becomes the point at which all we
have become in the years of our living becomes clear. We see
this in the death of heroes. Their living often culminates
in a sacrifice of themselves for others. That death is a
witness to the inner workings of their hearts. The nurses
and doctors, the first responders, even politicians who
struggle mightily to work for the people they represent with
honesty and integrity – all of these whose lives are handed
over for the good of all, all of these and all of us who
live and work for others are heroes. They witness to the
presence of God’s love amply demonstrated in the death of
Jesus. These people are people of the Kingdom of God.
It is said that Jesus dying in agony on the cross is what
men think of Jesus and his way. It is said of the Father
that the Resurrection is what God thinks of Jesus. Which of
these two visions fits our thinking, our commitment in life?
Jesus suffers and dies for us. This death, this willing
sacrifice of self is the glory of Jesus as his sacrifice is
a willing sacrifice that is taken on because of the
Trinity’s love for us.
To the point of this Seventh Sunday of Easter: this comes
after the Ascension of Jesus to the Father. In his prayer in
John’s statement of the Last Supper, Jesus insists that his
followers are in the world. He insists they are not of the
world. But they remain in the world. They are the ones who
continue to manifest the glory of God by their works, their
efforts – all of which are permeated and motivated by care
and concern for others. This care and concern come not from
some rationalization of the purposes and ways of the world.
These cares and concerns are direct descendants of the love
of Jesus for the lives of those who follow in his ways. But
not even only these: Jesus’ love with not tolerate any
hatred, any violence, any dishonesty. Jesus’ love invites
all to share in the cross so that all may experience the
exhilaration and delight in the Resurrection.
We have got work to do. That work is within ourselves
first. As that work bears fruit, it spreads without fanfare,
without recognition, without reward to all who live. The
Kingdom of God is the Will of God. That Kingdom does not
seek power so as to dominate, does not consider accumulation
of wealth as its goal, does not consider fame and adulation
a permanent achievement. The Kingdom of God runs contrary to
the kingdom of man. God’s Kingdom runs on love, not wealth,
not power, not notoriety.
We have got work to do. Next weekend we celebrate the
energy and inspiration that will lead us, if we allow it, to
our personal crosses as transitions to eternal Resurrection.
May it be so!
Ascension Day 2020
HOORAY FOR JESUS! ASCENSION DAY (A)
In our Creed today we will be saying of Jesus: 'He
ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the
Father.' What picture comes to mind when we think of Jesus
ascending to heaven? Do we picture him going up into the
stratosphere like a space ship at Cape Canaveral? If we do,
we show that we don't realize that the words of scripture
about this are not to be taken literally. They are a
pictorial and poetic way of saying that Jesus is no longer
on earth in a physical and material way. In his risen
transformed body he has gone to God and lives with God in
light and glory. They mean that God who raised him from the
dead has honoured and exalted him.
His going to God is the climax of his life on earth. He
now enjoys full face-to-face encounter with God. That’s what
we call ‘being in heaven’. But being with God in heaven he
became, in the words of our Psalm today, ‘great king over
all the earth’, in close contact with our world and its
For forty days he kept appearing from God to different
groups of his followers to strengthen their faith, trust and
love. Since Easter Sunday we too have had forty days for
thinking about all the different ways in which we still
experience Jesus meeting and guiding us. Vatican II has
emphasised this: ‘Christ is always present in the church
[community], and especially in her liturgical celebrations’
(Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, #7). For the last forty
days, then, we have in fact been giving particular attention
to his presence in the liturgy and especially the Eucharist.
There in special ways his love keeps radiating out to us.
We experience his presence and love in our being with one
another, our fellow-followers of Jesus. We experience his
presence and love in listening to and taking to heart the
message of the Readings, in which he keeps speaking to us
words from God. We experience his presence and love when we
come to his table. There he gives us his body broken for us
and his blood and life poured out for us. We experience his
presence and love also in our priest leading us in prayer,
and in our readers, ministers of communion, musicians,
singers and altar servers, all servants of Christ in our
shared celebrations. Finally, we experience his presence and
love as we go back into the world from which we came -
strengthened, refreshed, and more determined than ever to
make our world a better place, by our loving outreach to all
sorts of needy people.
As we keep on being ‘good news’ people, people who live
what we hear and believe, Jesus our Risen Lord stays with
us. In the words of the Gospel today, he stays with us
‘always ... to the end of time’. The forty days of his
continuing presence to his first disciples are, in fact, a
powerful symbol of the Christian journey of our lives as
well. It’s a journey in which he walks and talks with us
every step of the way, just as he walked and talked with
those two friends travelling with him from Jerusalem to
Emmaus that first Easter Sunday afternoon.
Today, however, we might rather forget about us and just
look at him, and express our joy that at the end of his
life’s journey, God raised Jesus to life and took him to
himself in the eternal embrace of love that is ‘heaven’.
Just like us, Jesus spent his life dreaming of this day. His
whole being longed to see God face-to-face, and to enjoy
without distraction the communion of love for which we are
all created and for which at least deep down we are all
yearning. So today we say ‘Hooray for Jesus!’ that he has
reached his destination. His time of waiting and his time of
suffering are over. Nothing now can ever come between the
longings of his heart and the joy of their fulfillment in
So, in short, we rejoice that he remains forever in
communion with God the Father and with you and me, his body
on earth. Nothing, nothing at all, can stop the love of God
that keeps beating in the great heart of Jesus.
Lastly, our celebration of his ascension reminds us to
let ourselves experience the absence of Jesus as well as his
presence. Like his first followers we are sad at his no
longer being here with us in the flesh, where we might see
him, hear him and touch him. But missing his physical
presence reminds us that we are not meant to find our final
home in this world. Our journey continues, a journey of both
joy and suffering, as was his. Meanwhile, let him encourage
us with his Last Supper words: ‘I will come again and take
you to myself, so that where I am, you may also be’ (John
Gleeson CP" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Year A: Ascension & 7th Sunday of Easter
Year A: Ascension
"Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations;
baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands
I gave you."
When I was growing up, there was a very great leader of
the Catholic church in my country who seemed for me, as a
small boy, to embody the entire personality of the Church. I
won’t tell you his name but he was the then Cardinal
Archbishop. In every way, he was a big man - 68 when I knew
him. 6 foot 4 inches tall, broad and strong.
But the biggest thing about him was an enormous booming
voice which filled every room he ever entered. And with this
enormous voice, he pronounced absolute certainty on any
issue you cared to mention. He knew exactly the right way
forward for the Church, for the Country, for Society at
large and indeed for anyone else he happened to be talking
to at the time. To put it mildly, he did not immediately
give the impression of a man who was much troubled by
self-doubt. So, I was rather surprised when, a long time
after his death, I came across his autobiography in which he
said that there was once a time when he was not happy as a
priest. He had come from a very wealthy background and he
was sent to serve in a very poor parish. There he struggled
as he discovered that he was in fact a little too accustomed
to the comfortable things in life and a little too used to
the company of his own upper class. To put it more simply,
he saw in himself a soft-living snob and he didn’t like
himself very much.
But one day he was sent to see a little old lady who had
severe rheumatoid arthritis and was dying of cancer. She
lived with her daughter in circumstances of great poverty.
This was in the days before the NHS and adult social
services. When he arrived, he found the place so smelly and
dirty that he could not even bring himself to sit down. He
said that even today the clearest memory was of the terrible
smell of her leg ulcers that he couldn’t get rid of for
But there he met a truly holy woman. She was 92, had been
bedridden for four years, was dying in obvious pain and
distress and in fact she died that very night. He did not
remember a word of what passed between them. All he
remembered was that every motion, every gesture, every word
that she uttered was filled with grace and serenity. He
realised that he was in the presence of a Saint – someone
who was close to God in every way.
And the only actual words he remembered from that
encounter were not hers, but his own. As he left her room,
he made himself a promise - that he would not give up on
what he believed to be his vocation unless and until he
could honestly say that he had suffered more for Christ than
He has remembered that brief encounter throughout his
life because it is a memory of how God can use us, wherever
we are in life, to bring His love and healing into the lives
of one another.
There is never a moment in the life of any true Catholic
Christian when she or he is not obeying this final command
of the Lord – to be a missionary of the Faith. That does not
mean shouting what we believe at other people. Nor does it
mean knocking on their doors uninvited and trying to force
our beliefs upon them. It is those things that get Christian
missionaries a bad name. What it means is showing in our
lives what Christ has done for us. And offering to everyone
who comes to us the peace and love of Christ, not just in
our words, but in every gesture and every action. And let us
hear for ourselves Jesus’ last words on earth:
"Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations;
baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of
the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands
I gave you."
And now let us stand and profess our Faith in the
presence of God in our world.
Year A: 7th Sunday in Easter
"I am not
in the world any longer,
are in the world,
and I am
coming to you."
gone and left us alone.
That is the message of the readings the Church gives us
today. On Thursday we celebrated the feast of his Ascension.
Today, we hear in the Acts of the Apostles how his followers
leave the mount of Olives and go back into Jerusalem to hide
themselves away in an upper room, huddled together for
support and praying constantly, more in fear than in hope.
They don’t know what is going to happen next. All they know
is that Jesus has gone and - apparently – has left them
abandoned and alone. We know that Pentecost is coming when
the Holy Spirit will come upon them and fill them with the
grace to go out and preach the Good News to all the world.
But they don’t seem to know that. For them, Jesus - the
light - has gone out of their lives. They feel entirely
alone and helpless - threatened by an uncomprehending,
uncaring and hostile world. Have you ever felt like that? I
know I have.
As some of you may know, I only get to work as a priest
at weekends; my superior still thinks I shouldn’t give up my
day job as a doctor. And one of the occupational hazards of
being a doctor is that from time to time, you are called
upon in an emergency.
The worst time this ever happened to me was about
twenty-five years ago. I was standing on a platform in the
Heathrow airport underground station waiting for a train. I
had just come back from America and I was horribly
jet-lagged; I’d been up all night; it was 7am in London; my
body thought it was two in the morning in New York and, more
than anything else in the world, I just wanted desperately
to go home, go to bed and go to sleep.
Just then, as I was waiting, a young, rather well-dressed
man in front of me suddenly dropped –collapsed to the
ground. So I went to look at him. He was unconscious; blue,
not breathing, no pulse. It was obvious that he had a
cardiac arrest - his heart had stopped. So I began to try to
resuscitate him. You know, just like you’ve seen on
"Casualty", with mouth to mouth breathing and chest
compressions. Now, resuscitating someone is an awful lot
easier if there are two of you doing it. So I looked around
to see if anybody was going to give me a hand. I reckon
there must have been two-to-three hundred people on that
platform. And every single one of them had taken a sudden
interest in the advertisements displayed on the other side
of the tracks. Nobody wanted to know. Nobody wanted to help.
So I carried on doing my best on my own. It is the most
lonely I have ever felt.
Now, the golden rule of this sort of resuscitation is
that no matter what - come hell or high water - you just
have to keep on trying for at least twenty minutes before
you give up. Within that twenty minutes the person has a
chance. So you can’t give up on his chance. And in that
twenty minutes, several trains came and went. And, because
it was the rush hour, the trains were packed. So, hundreds,
maybe thousands of people were walking up and down the
platform. Not one of them stopped. Nobody that I saw even
looked to see what was going on. Quite a lot of people
stepped over him. One woman - I remember - even stepped on
After twenty minutes, he was still unconscious, he was
still blue, he had no pulse; he was still not breathing; he
was dead. There was nothing more I could do except wait for
the ambulance and the Police to come and take him away.
And when the Police did come, they kept me for three
hours and they gave me a really hard time. They asked me a
lot of very detailed questions about what exactly had
happened; where I had come from; what was I doing there;
what I had seen; what I had done; had I given any medicine?
Had anybody been with him? Had anybody been near him? Was
there any possibility of foul play? Did I know who he was?
Had I known him before? They seemed to know who he was but
they didn’t want to tell me. And I explained as best I
could. And eventually, they made me sign a statement, let me
go and I went home and went to bed and went to sleep.
I got up just in time for the early evening news. And he
was the first item on the news. And I found out who he was.
I won’t tell you his name, but he was a well-known
politician, a member of parliament and a member of the then
shadow cabinet. If he was still alive, he would almost
certainly now be a cabinet minister. Well, to be exact, he
would have been a minister not in this government, but in
the last. He was a rich and powerful man and he died lying
down on the road with people walking over him.
Ever since then, I have often wondered what exactly must
have gone through the minds of all those people who just
walked past or walked over him. They can’t all have been bad
people – if such a thing exists. I’ve worked in prisons and
I’ve met plenty of people who have done bad things, but I’ve
never met someone who I thought was a bad person. And I do
not believe that anyone would consciously and deliberately
refuse to help a dying man. The only explanation that I’ve
ever been able to think of is that they just didn’t see him.
When they noticed him, as they all must have done - he was
right out in the middle of the platform; they couldn’t miss
him. But when they noticed him, they didn’t see him; they
only saw a problem, somebody else’s problem and a problem
they didn’t want to get involved with.
For years after that, I was angry. I really didn’t want
to be part of a society that treats people like that. And
ever since it has been my image of what a truly secular
society is – one that has completely lost respect both for
God and for humanity.
And I think that is John the Baptist’s message to us.
There are many ways in which our world is not worthy of the
Presence of Christ. There are many ways that the world we
have made falls short of God’s intention for our lives. And
often we only see them by accident, when we are jolted out
of the comfort zone – what Douglas Adams in ‘The
Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’ calls the ‘Somebody
Else’s Problem’ zone.
Let us stand and profess our Faith in God, and in His
presence in the world and in ourselves.
O’Reilly, SJ <email@example.com>
Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections,
and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the
preaching you hear. Send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email
-- Fr. John