Ascension - Homily 1

Homily 1 - 2006

Luke is the scripture author who sees the outcome of the resurrection of Jesus in two stages. Jesus ascends to the Father, and from there, Father and Son send the Holy Spirit to the Church.

The ending of the gospel reading today spoke of Jesus as taking his place at the right hand of God. It’s what we celebrate today: the Ascension of Jesus.

What the author is telling us by his reference to the right hand of God (It’s a kind of code language) is that Jesus shares in the power of God. In fact Jesus lets us see clearly just what the power of God is like.

Jesus’ resurrection was not the occasion for him to crow, as it were: I have triumphed; you have failed. I’m on top now; you’re under my feet.

The persistent message of the risen Jesus was: Peace be with you! What resurrection made obvious was that Jesus’ patient, respectful, non-violent and consistent critique of domination and exclusiveness was indeed the way to go –even if those committed to domination and exclusiveness keep on winning in the short term.

The resurrection shows that vulnerability, the refusal to compromise personal integrity, and a non-negotiable respect even for enemies is indeed the way to go. The Jesus who now sits at God’s right hand hasn’t changed his tactics from what they were before they executed him.

And he sends us out as witnesses to him and to his message and to his techniques.

He does not send us to succeed, but to be real, authentic, attuned to real needs of real persons, ready to share with those who miss out or who get trodden on. Even more, perhaps, he sends us out to witness another, more life-giving, way of relating than dominating or ignoring those who unsettle our consciences.

We do not witness to Jesus by imposing his vision on a world that won’t understand it, that doesn’t want to understand it. But he does want us to share that vision: to go out to the whole world; to proclaim the good news to all creation, by firstly living it ourselves in vulnerability, perhaps looking, and feeling, ineffectual, not appreciated and often criticised.

This is the Jesus to whom we witness – not a weak, irrelevant, submissive Jesus, but a free, engaged, assertive and critical Jesus who refused to dominate, to pressurise or to act violently.

The media has brought to our notice this week the destructive dysfunctionality in many Aboriginal communities. These are people whose whole lifestyle, developed over 40,000 years, was destroyed - made impossible - in a few decades by white occupation of the continent two centuries ago.

In the face of such self-destructive behaviour, a strong temptation is to say: What’s the answer? It’s hopeless!

I don’t know if Jesus had the answer to the needs of the oppressed and marginalised hopeless cases of his day. But he certainly cared, engaged, listened, shared, and refused to say: "They’re hopeless! It’s too hard!".

As our nation this week observes “Aboriginal Reconciliation Week”, Jesus’ words keep echoing in our ears: You are to be my witnesses.

He has not promised that we may, perhaps, succeed in sharing our vision, (certainly not by the tempting methods of coercion or manipulation). But he has promised: you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you to keep caring, to keep getting actively engaged somehow, to keep being honest, and to grow humanly, even, perhaps precisely, in the face of failure.