Sunday Readings in Brief: Ascension A
Acts 1:1-11; Psalms 46(47); Ephesians 1:17-23; Mathew 28:19-20
The Authority to Preach
Dear friends, today is the feast of the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is forty days since the resurrection. Today he is bidding farewell to his disciples but only temporarily because he promised to come back. As he left them, Jesus gave his disciples the mission to go out there and witness the good news to all humanity. However, he first instructed them to remain in Jerusalem until he could send them the Holy Spirit who would help them in their mission.
Just like many of us, the disciples were anxious to know whether this was the time when the kingdom of Israel would be restored. It seems that still, the disciples had not yet understood the real meaning of the “kingdom of God”. Jesus knew that after they had received the Holy Spirit everything would be clear to them.
Jesus sends his disciples to go and preach repentance and forgiveness in his name. In our society dominated by lies, delusion, violence, injustice, inequality, irresponsibility, selfishness, greed, politics of hatred, false prophets, and many other evil forces that have taken our world captive, Jesus is instructing us to preach change that would lead to a new world.
In the Gospel, Jesus instructs or rather gives authority to his disciples to go and make disciples of all the nations for him and baptize them. Last Sunday we talked about the authority to preach and said that the ministry of the Gospel cannot be carried out as a private business. There must be authentic authority that has checks and balances. Today we have uncountable sole-proprietor ministers who answer to no one else but to themselves. The Gospel belongs to Christ and as St. Paul writes to the community of the Ephesians, he is the head of the Church, which is his body.
The loophole is that many are seeking easier alternative ways to live a “good life” other than the normal hard work, patience, and perseverance. The preaching of the gospel of prosperity based on quick-fix-miracles has become a very lucrative business. In the name of the Gospel, many have established churches to delude innocent people and con them of their money and possessions. To make their business even more attractive, they use all kinds of theatrics including stage-managed “miracles”. If getting rich seems too worldly there is an option of skipping the whole process and getting into heaven early to escape the “dirty world”.
The Gospel which was supposed to be voluntary and faith-driven has become a product like any other in the market. However, those who are keen enough will be able to distinguish between the authentic Pentecostal Spirit from the spirits of greed. By virtue of our baptism, each one has been commissioned to go out there and spread the Good News to all. The Good News of true freedom, love for one another, authentic communities, and positive development of all peoples.
Finally, we have read that after Jesus had been taken from them, the disciples remained looking up into the sky speechless. The angles came to encourage them that in the same way that Jesus was taken from them, the same way he would return to them. The promise of the return of Jesus is a very important part of the mission of the disciples and our mission today. A promise brings us hope and hope gives us strength to carry on even when things are difficult. Now Jesus will no longer be present to them physically but rather in Spirit. The preaching of the resurrection and all it entails is the moment of the Holy Spirit through the Church.
Dear friends, As we prepare to make new the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives on the feast of the Pentecost, I invite us to embrace fully the new life receive through the Spirit and live according to what we have learned from Jesus Christ.
Have a blessed Sunday.
Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD.
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