On Ascension Mountain, let’s not be dreamers

On Ascension Mountain, let’s not be dreamers
On Ascension Mountain, let’s not be dreamers
Parish priest of Rochefort, Father Mickaël Le Nézet comments on the readings for the solemnity of the Ascension. On the mountain of the Ascension, Christ sends the disciples to join the world as it is to be witnesses of his Good News.

“Galileans, why do you stand looking up into the sky? » We can understand the reaction of the disciples as it is related to us in this passage from the book of Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1, 11). We can indeed understand this nostalgia that rises from their hearts the moment Christ takes his eyes off them. How indeed can we accept going from such an intense life with him, letting ourselves be carried away, letting ourselves be guided and taught by him, to a life without him, without this carnal presence so strong for each of those who followed him? ? In a way, as long as Christ was at their side, they knew they had confidence. At their side, Christ knew how to help them put into perspective what needed to be put into perspective by telling them the essentials. At his side, we felt safe, almost without fear, neither of the future, nor of the trials of daily life since Christ had this way of being, so personal to console, soothe, comfort, support, like of the shepherd close to his sheep. Looking at the sky, the disciples are immersed as in a dream, as if they wanted to stay there so as not to have to face again this world which has become hostile, perhaps even distressing for them, in any case, indifferent, far from what they had been able to experience by choosing to leave everything for Christ.

How can we accept going from such an intense life with him to a life without him, without this carnal presence so strong for each of those who followed him?

Make religion a refuge?

We can’t help but say to ourselves, once again looking at the disciples that we are finally so close to them. Faced with the difficulties of life, faced with the trials of daily life which are sometimes so heavy, faced with, if not the hostility then at least the indifference of our world to the things of God and the truths of faith, do we not also risk dreaming of another world that is more secure, more reassuring, less trying? And wouldn’t there then be a risk of making religion an escape by plunging us into nostalgia for a more beautiful world which we are not even sure ever existed? We can in fact, make religion, like the disciples turned towards the sky, a refuge by letting ourselves be carried away by the smells of incense which would make us forget the less intoxicating reality. And some will not fail to point this out to us, presenting religion as the opium of the weak and fragile.

Pascal Deloche / Godong

But now the Word of God on this feast day pushes us out of our daydreams. She jostles us and calls out to us. “Why are you standing there looking up to the sky? » I cannot fail to quote a word from the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer: “Do we, Christians, have the strength to testify to the world that we are not dreamers, and that we do not walk on clouds; that our faith is not the opium that leaves us blissful in the heart of a world of injustice? » On the mountain of the Ascension, Christ sends the disciples to join the world to be witnesses of his Good News. Contemplation of heaven, that is to say of this life of God manifested to men by Christ, only has meaning if it sends us back to earth to offer this life of God to all humanity. The Church does not exist for itself but for the world and the institution is not an end in itself but in the service of this Good News to be spread throughout the earth.

Contemplation of the sky only has meaning if it sends us back to earth to offer this life of God to all humanity.

Where God waits for us

What is being told to us again on this Feast of the Ascension is the mission of every disciple of Christ. Our expectation of the coming of the Kingdom of God can only be an active expectation. And our task is great. Where we are, it is a matter of repeating that God does not abandon this world, that he does not reject it, that he neither despises it nor condemns it but that he offers it hope in a path of life to lead him to fullness. Yes, our responsibility is great since it is a question, as we are, with what we are, of responding to God’s will that the earth become heaven, to use an expression from Benedict XVI, that is to say -to say that our humanity is moving towards ever greater justice and peace, in respect for each human being, in the work of reconciliation between men, in the construction of a more fraternal, more united humanity. This is where God awaits us; there and there first. Once again the Church does not exist for itself but for this world that God chose to join by sending his only Son, Savior of the world.

“You will receive strength”

Of course, we can feel small in the face of such a mission. Small and probably very poor to respond generously. Do you believe that things were self-evident for the disciples, who knew they were being watched by the Roman authorities? They too were afraid, they too felt helpless in the face of the magnitude of the task. But they had heard the promise made by Christ on the mountain of Ascension: “You will receive strength when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. Then you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). This promise is also for us. God will give us what we need to accomplish our mission. In these days before Pentecost let us ask insistently, in our prayer, for this strength of the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel everywhere as he asks us to do.

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