ASCENSION (A)

Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. – Mt. 28: 20

   Well, the time has come for the disciples to sink or swim, to fly on their own. It’s been a real trip, but the Lord knew he couldn’t prop them up with His visible presence anymore. He could send the Holy Spirit to help them, but they would have to pull their share of the load themselves. That is one thing He couldn’t or wouldn’t do for them.

   It must have been a bitter-sweet moment for the disciples. The future was uncertain, & their self-confidence left something to be desired. I’ll never forget when, as a Midshipman, I went to San Diego for my summer training. I had volunteered to take a three-day trip on a submarine simply to become familiar with their operation. I went to the conning tower as the proverbial fly on the wall just to observe. After we had shoved off into the harbor, the captain turned to me & said, “Mr. Holleman you have the con,” before disappearing down the hatch. Now, I had never set foot on a Navy vessel of any kind before, & here I was in charge of steering this thing out to sea. It took my breath away! I couldn’t believe it. I’ll never know how, but I got it to the last buoy without hitting anything.

   Looking back on that experience, I remembered that the Executive Office stood silently in a corner. He could have jumped out & set things right if I did anything stupid. So I think I can identify with how the disciples must have felt at the Ascension. The Holy Spirit was hovering over them to set things right if need be, but they didn’t appreciate that. It must have been a scary moment for them. Save the world? Who, us? It must have been intimidating, the say the least.

   One of the things about God that should impress us the most & bring us the greatest joy is the way in which He constantly gives us signs of His presence. If we follow up on these signs, we have the opportunity to enter into a deeper union with Him through which we receive a new desire & a new ability to love others, & through which we receive the strength & courage to make difficult decisions in life.

   Early in her life Helen Keller lost the ability to see, to hear or to speak. She was less than two years old when the fever came & left her in this disabled condition. And yet, through the help of Anne Sullivan, her teacher, & the Perkins Institute for the Blind (where she lived & studied for a time), she became one of the most sensitive, most alert, & most aware persons in contemporary life. This little girl who was blind & deaf – babbling like a wild animal sometimes, often having violent temper tantrums in her frustration at not being able to express herself – this little girl developed into one of the most gracious people of our time.

   As the years went by, she became especially concerned about the insensitivity & the blindness of her friends who had eyes to see. Because of her handicap, she learned to read with her fingers. On one occasion she was walking in the woods with a friend. It was Springtime& Helen was using her fingers to read the signs of new life bursting out in that forest. When she returned home, she asked her friend (who had perfectly good eyes) what she had seen. The friend said “Nothing in particular.”

   Helen was astounded. She began to ask other people, & she discovered that there were those all around her who had eyes to see but who were more blind than she was. She was amazed to discover that few could really describe the face of a close friend, husbands & wives who couldn’t tell the color of one another’s eyes from memory. She once remarked that everyone, early in life, should be blind for a short period of time so that they would learn to appreciate the gift of sight.

   We have the same problem with the eyes of faith. God is continually giving us signs of His presence & love for us: that He wants us to be in union with Him because it is the only thing that can give meaning to everything else in life. We need to develop an alertness, a sensitivity, to these signs. People all around us are crying out for deeper meaning in their lives, & we deprive them of the opportunity through our own insensitivity. God hasn’t abandoned us – we have simply become hardened to the presence of the Holy Spirit in our own lives.  AMEN!