Thursday, May 17, 2007

Time in the City

(Feast of the Ascension-Year C; This homily was given 17 May, 2007, at Our Lady of Mercy, East Greenwich, R.I.; read Acts 1:1-12 and Luke 24:44-53)

In just a few short days we will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost, the “birthday of the Church.” The Feast of Pentecost is about the power of God in the life of the early Church; it is about the gift of the Holy Spirit and the remarkable work of God that coincides with that.

Today’s Feast of the Ascension is different. The Ascension is not so much about the power of God in the lives of the Apostles or the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church. The Ascension is about the promise of power, and the promise of the Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ, in our readings this morning, teaches us the difference.

In both the Acts of the Apostles and St. Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells the disciples that they will receive from God “power from on high” (Luke 24:49) and the unprecedented gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5,8)… but not yet…not now.

Instead, He tells them to wait:

Stay in the city
until you are clothed with power from on high.
—Luke 24:49

He tells them
“not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait” (Acts 1:4).

Wait in the city.

Wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

And it is there in the city, while they wait without Christ and without yet the promised Holy Spirit, that they come to discover their own weakness; their own powerlessness; their own fear; and their own utter dependence upon God…so that, when the promised Holy Spirit does come, and sends them out to set the world on fire, they will remember that it was not their own power, but the power of God shining through their human weakness.

In these next few days we too will prepare to celebrate the great day of Pentecost, and the coming of the power of God from on high. But God invites us, too, in this next week and a half, to spend time in the city; time to recognize our own weaknesses, our own fears, our own powerlessness and our own utter dependency upon Him.

Let us pray for the grace to spend well this time in the city, that we may also come to appreciate the great power of God at work in us, and the power of the Holy Spirit shining through our human weakness.