Auxiliary Bishop Sylvester David offers his prayer and reflection for the people of the Archdiocese of Cape Town for today, Friday 22 May 2020, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic.
Bishop Sylvester David OMI. The Ascension. Acts 1:1-11. Please read the text.
The feast of St Eugene de Mazenod the founder of the OMI congregation occurred on Thursday and being an Oblate I exercised the option of celebrating the Ascension on the Sunday following. No matter on which day we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension, it is hoped that this reflection will nourish our faith.
Our first reading for the Solemnity of the Ascension gives us the true meaning of the Ascension. This is not a departure – it is the presence of Jesus in a new way – a way that is mediated through you and me. The words of the angels in the text make it clear that Christianity is not a star gazing activity. It is a lot more practical than that. Remember the message of the angels “Why are you Galileans standing here looking into the sky?” (Acts 1:11). In other words Jesus gave them a commission and if they were to take his word and his presence into the world they had to stop their stargazing. The message on Easter day, initially from the angel (Matthew 28:7) and then from Jesus himself was: “tell my brothers that they must leave for Galilee; there they will see me” (Matthew 28:10). What did Galilee represent? Galilee was where they lived and where they worked. The message is that we encounter the risen Lord right where we live and work. We have trained ourselves to see him in unusual circumstances but here the message is different.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus smashed the false assumptions we like to base our lives on. Jesus walked around doing wonderful things and teaching the truth about God. It must have been wonderful to encounter him. Then Good Friday came and his disciples were shattered. They had to accept that life as we know it is not absolute. It will end in death. And then they were sorrowful.
But Easter happened and they were amazed. Jesus appeared regularly to the believers and they realized that if life was not absolute, neither was death. They thought they had found a new absolute viz. the Resurrection. But even there Jesus shattered their false belief system. When his female disciple wanted to cling to him he instructed her not to touch him as he had not yet ascended to the Father (John 20:17). What this means is that nothing is absolute – neither life nor death. There is only one absolute and that is our union with God. The goal of the life of Jesus was union with God and that is what he achieved in the Ascension – and the good news is that we too can achieve that union with God if we follow the teachings of Jesus. In all this we have to realize that Jesus did not want a fan club. He wanted disciples. In order to achieve union with God we simply have to do what he did.
Let us pray: Heavenly Father, you desire a deep union with us. And Jesus himself indicated that where he is he wants us to be. Give us the grace to respond with all our hearts to the Gospel message so that we may indeed share in a deep and intimate union with you. Send your Holy Spirit into our hearts to empower us Lord. We make our prayer through your son Jesus who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen!
Bishop Sylvester David OMI
VG: Archdiocese of Cape Town