Homily for the Solemnity of the Ascension May 26, 2022

  Following Jesus…bringing hope

Today’s feast of the Ascension has a lot to do with hope. The simplest way to put it is: where he has gone, we hope to follow. Like an older brother, Jesus has walked along the way ahead of us. He experienced many of the same joys and disappointments, thrills and sorrows that we do. But there is a major difference: he has gone ahead, into eternity, risen from the dead, and has told us what awaits us. “In my Father’s house there are many mansions. I am going to prepare a place for you. And then I will come back to get you, so that where I am, you also may be.” Hope: where he has gone, we hope to follow.


Hope is perhaps the one thing we need most of all, given the present state of our world. I’m not sure that it’s the worst it’s ever been, but with the rapid pace of communication in our day, all the world’s problems come tumbling in on us. A cruel war in Ukraine, rising prices at the supermarket and at the pump, killers shooting multiple, innocent victims, most recently in Buffalo and Texas, and deep-seated division and heated anger. How do we deal with all this negativity? How do we claim the hope that Jesus came to give us?


I am reminded often of a speech that the late Robert Kennedy gave to young people in South Africa in 1966: “Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills. Yet many of the world’s great movements of thought and action flowed from the work of a single person…


“These people moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each person can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.


“It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that history is shaped. Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he or she sends forth a tiny ripple of hope. And crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”


So …when someone points out all the ills of the world in their multiplicity and heaviness, and asks me how I can have hope, I respond that all those problems, added together, are beyond my paygrade. But there are people right around here who know that, when life is at its worst and everyone lets them down, they can still come to our door. They can still come to our church. And through a multiplicity of generous and compassionate actions, there are hungry people who are being fed, young mothers are getting diapers, people are not being evicted from their apartments, utilities are not being shut off, and those living in a very difficult world, up to their eyeballs with bills to pay, mouths to feed, and worries that paralyze them can come here and get some hope. And, when you think about it, every one of us can do something, first by noticing someone else’s pain, and then going out of ourselves, maybe inconveniencing ourselves a bit, maybe by doing without something…we can make a difference, we can bring a ripple of hope. In response to the most recent tragic loss of life in Texas, and before that in Buffalo, and for months now in Ukraine, we can make our voices heard, joining together to convince others of the need for gun safety and for a greater effort to bring about the will to create peace, to demand peace, in our fractured world.


All of this, so as to continue the work of hope started by the Master: where he has gone, we hope to follow. Well, the following of Jesus doesn’t have to wait until the day we die. We can do what Jesus did every day of his life on this earth, right up into eternity: he gave hope. And going along the path he has gone, and doing the kinds of things he did, we can follow right now, today. So, let’s follow. Let’s give hope in our little part of creation. And let’s do what we can to influence public opinion and demand change. That’s not above our pray grade. And it is our right as citizens; it is our duty as followers of Jesus Christ.