The Solemnity of the Ascension is observed at mass today in some parts of the world, and it is a holy day of obligation. However, in many parts of the world the Solemnity of the Ascension was moved to this coming Sunday. This reflection is on the Thursday of the sixth week of Easter readings for mass.
In the first reading from the book of Acts today, things do not seem to be going well for Paul. He was doing so well in yesterday’s reading when he spoke with the Athenians, but it doesn’t sound like this was one of his better days in today’s first reading for mass.
The scriptures in the first reading said that Paul argued in the synagogue every Sunday. Imagine that! Many people these days seem to think that you are not a good Christian, if you do not live in peace and harmony with everyone all the time. They believe negativity and conflict is unchristian.
It’s true that we seek to live in peace and harmony with one another. This is one of the goals of the Christian life. However, no one in the bible lived a life filled with joy, peace, harmony and unity with everyone all the time. It is unrealistic to think there will never be any negativity or conflicts in our own life. Every single person in the bible, including Jesus Christ himself, experienced a great deal of conflicts and negativity, even within the church itself. Perhaps when we experience periods of conflict or negativity in our own lives, we should remember today’s scriptures for mass.
Saint Paul argued in church every Sunday and made everyone mad at him. The Jews opposed and reviled him to the point that Paul stormed out of the synagogue with these words “Your blood be on your own heads! I am innocent. From now on I will go to the Gentiles.”
What an absolutely beautiful lesson in all of this negativity, is that Paul didn’t just throw in the towel and quit altogether. He went on down the road and continued with his mission, just with a different group of people. That is a good thing for us to remember, because Paul didn’t get mad and quit, but continued to do the work that Jesus needed him to do.
Things worked out much better with this new group of people. Paul stayed with a man who lived next door to a synagogue. The official of this synagogue became a believer and his entire household was baptized. The same thing happened with Lydia and her family in an earlier reading in the book of Acts too. Acts 16:11-15 It seems that pretty often in the new testament, when one person in the home was baptized, the entire household did the same thing. They acted together as a whole, not independently as individuals. Our modern culture seems to encourage individuals to think and act for themselves, rather than agree on anything together as a group. This type of independent thinking though, often causes division, rather than unity, in our families, parishes, workplace, schools and the community that we live in. Most of us do not see the larger implications of our actions, until after the fact. We are all guilty of this to some extent. A lot of problems could be avoided though, if we thought about our actions a little more, and prayed about them, to see how our actions will affect other people too.
This concept follows through in the gospel today too. When Jesus told his disciples that he was going away and they would not see him, but that they would see him again in a little while, the disciples didn’t understand what he was talking about. They said, “what does he mean?” three times in today’s gospel. Jesus knew his disciples didn’t understand the bigger picture. They could only see what was currently going on in that moment of their lives. We are a lot like that too. It’s difficult to see the bigger picture of things and we often seem to focus on our own thoughts at the moment. Jesus wasn’t like that though, he kept his focus on the bigger picture of what his Father had asked him to do.
Jesus has the bigger picture in mind when he told his disciples in advance what would happen to them, because when it did happen, his words would come back to them. They would remember his words after his death, and they would help validate that he really was the son of Gold. Jesus said, “A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me. Amen, amen. I say to you, you will weep and mourn, while the world rejoices; you will grieve, but your grief will become joy.”
The readings for mass today challenge us to not get overly caught up in the present moment, but to consider the larger picture as well.
Daily Mass Readings:
Acts 1: 1-11 / Psalm 47: 2-3, 6-9 / John 16: 5-11