I thought about how we celebrate each next step by celebrating the one we are stepping up (away?) from—and that made me think of the saying about doors closing and windows opening. “Step” is a movement made by lifting the foot and setting it down again in a new position accompanied by a shifting of the weight of the body in the direction of the new position. According to Webster, to ascend means: to move upward (gradually), and/or to succeed, (as to a throne). The Living Liturgy tells us that Jesus’ Ascension which we celebrate today is a pledge of his “presence to us that involves us inextricably in the work of salvation…we become the instruments by which salvation is announced and the kingdom continues to be inaugurated throughout the whole world.” We receive a pledge of His presence to us—the pledge of the Holy Spirit sent to us to work the Kingdom of God in the here and now.
I admire those parents as they prepare their children to step up and away into adulthood with many new and various responsibilities, challenges and opportunities. Graduation means that each person takes on the work of our own “salvation” as the burden shifts from their parents to themselves about who they are, who they will be, and what they are about in this world. It is a gradual change—has been—a gradual change to prepare them for the future. Jesus today Ascends and we “graduate” to take on our responsibility for salvation, too—our role and part.
I think graduation into the new life and a new beginning—this changing for the future—can be very scary (all change is scary). John O’Donohue talks about new beginnings quietly forming and waiting to emerge—and how hard it can be to leave what we have outgrown. The “seduction of safety and the gray promises that sameness whispered” and how unwilling and unable we can be to leave what we have known. When Jesus ascended, I can only imagine the terror of the Disciples, even with the promise of an Advocate. We hear the risen Jesus tells us in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles that we will receive the Holy Spirit and will be his witnesses to all the ends of the earth. In the same way that we are all sent out as His disciples to do God’s work and will, graduates are now being sent out in the world to do their work, also.
The Second Reading from St. Paul to the Ephesians gives us a plan to follow of how to go about being what we are expected by God to be. St. Paul urges all of us to “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness. With patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace…” St. Paul also tells us that we have been given gifts to do work in this world: “some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” Wherever we graduate to—we have been given this great advice; and we have received the “tools” we need in order to do the work.
The Gospel of St. Mark tells us to go out to the world and proclaim the good news to all, to be a reflection of Christ in our Communities. We are what we do... We are our choices… “But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.” O’Donohue speaks of the delight when courage is kindled and you step on to new ground—eyes young (again) with “energy and dream, a path of plenitude opening before you though your destination is not yet clear.” You can trust the promise and awaken your spirit to adventure; hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk” as you will be “home in a new rhythm as your soul senses the world that awaits you.”
Parents helped their children “ascend” into the new life of adulthood—and as Catholic Christians we are called to the responsibilities of an adult Christian to ascend, too: to live as we are called to live, to utilize our gifts with which we have been equipped for the good of the Kingdom, to do what we were created to do. Now go and do it—graduates all!
Keep singing in your hearts!
Just a Note: I would imagine that this lovely piece of music runs through many parents’ minds when their children graduate…