Dear brothers and sisters,
This past Thursday we celebrated the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, 40 days after Easter. We don’t think enough about the Ascension; it is a crucial part of Christ’s mission and message. It is the culminating moment, the finale, the final whistle, the moment in which his victory will be enshrined in heaven for ever. Jesus ascends into heaven as the living sacrifice that will continue to be the bridge between God and humanity, until the end of time. His words at this moment, therefore, are critical. We have two accounts of his words to the Apostles right before his Ascension: in Acts 1:1-11, and in the so-called Great Commission from Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 28:16-20). This message entails two things: first, Jesus sums up the message of salvation. He reminds his Apostles that he had come to earth in order to preach salvation, and then to make it into a reality by his suffering, death, and resurrection. Only because of Christ’s preaching and Passion is it possible for humankind to experience the salvation from sin and ignorance that they desire, the peace of soul that they yearn for. Second, he gives his followers a job: he calls upon them to be witnesses of these things. They will not be able to carry out their witness all by themselves; they will need the Holy Spirit, and so he promises that at Pentecost they will be “clothed with power from on high.” Then, they are to go to “all the nations” as Christ’s witnesses. So, in the Ascension of our Lord, we come face to face with the core of the entire Gospel: Christ’s saving message being transmitted to all people, through the witness of the Church.
At St. John’s Church, we sum up this mission in a simple, six-word statement: Love God, Love People, Make Disciples. This weekend, I am speaking about our practical strategy for mission entitled “Partners in Mission.” When we team up with organizations and agencies in our community, the Gospel becomes alive and transformative, and our own faith grows. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to deeply challenge all aspects of our lives and our society, we nevertheless preach this message. The mission continues!