Our youngest child of the six that we have parented, graduates this year. Perhaps because I have attended a graduation in May or June most every year for twenty years, when the feast of the Ascension comes, I always feel a little like I’m getting the graduation pep-talk – but for disciples rather than for pupils and from Jesus rather than from the school principal.
All the clichés come to mind! Now is the moment! It is time to move on! Spread your wings! Take your first steps! Go out into the wide and wild world. Become who you were meant to be. You have been taught by the Master.
In many ways, this is exactly what is going on with Christ and the disciples at the Ascension. They have been taught by the Master – the world’s greatest! He has given them example, he has accompanied them, he has counselled, scolded and guided them. Mostly, however, he has loved them. No graduate was sent forth into the world more well-equipped than these folks!
Just like a parent, watching their child venture forth full of trepidation (and perhaps some excitement) to take on their mission in life, Christ knows how anxious the disciples are feeling. And they had a great deal to feel anxious about. They were not simply entering high school or moving out for the first time. They were being left with the monumental mission of making disciples of all nations. They knew from experience that this might end in… well, crucifixion, if not exactly then at least something like it. Their mission is made all the more difficult because it is marked by grief. They have lost their once. To lose him again must have felt unbearable. That’s why Jesus has to assure them that he is not leaving them orphaned. He will STILL be with them … always … to the end of the age.
But Jesus knows that they are now ready. It’s a little like graduation but with a supernatural twist. The disciples have been given all the training they need to undertake their mission. They are also given the power of the Holy Spirit. And that is a good thing – because they (and we) are going to need it.
–Christine Way Skinner is a Lay Pastoral Associate at St. John Chrysostom Parish in Newmarket, ON. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Theology degree from St. Francis Xavier University and a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School. Christine loves trying to find inclusive, compelling and creative ways to pass on the church’s 2000 year old traditions. She also loves art, playing music, reading, gardening and playing board games with her children. Christine’s numerous publications can be found and purchased here.