Get the lead out and stop staring
May 1, 2012
By Jeanne Hunt
The Gospel for the Feast of the Ascension is for go-getters — not for lazy believers with lead-feet disease. In this Gospel reading the angels offer us the timeless question, “Why do you stand here looking into the sky?” In other words, they prod us: “Get the lead out and stop staring at the clouds.”
As with all the Gospels, this is not a nice story about a small group standing on a hill over two thousand years ago. It is a personal story for each of us: living the life of Jesus means never looking back. Cloud-staring is for those who can’t quite muster the courage to walk into the unknown.
Each Sunday at Mass we have a mountaintop experience as we stare at heaven. In one hour we experience Christ’s passion and resurrection. We encounter His real presence in the Eucharist, meeting Jesus heart to heart. But it is the closing of each Mass that leads us to “become what we have eaten” (in the words of St. Augustine). When the priest proclaims, “Go, the Mass is ended,” we respond, “Thanks be to God.”
While many of us are thankful that this hour is finally over, the real Catholic is thankful to leave this heavenly experience and begin to make church and to live the Gospel in our daily lives. It is time now to get the lead out and move into the arena of the kingdom.
Just like the disciples watching the clouds, we need to be reminded that being Catholic is not a spectator sport. The Ascension angels give us a hint of God’s directions when we walk out of church. Jesus says, “Go and make….” He did not say, “Sit here and think about it” or “Read what the latest experts have to say” or “Talk among yourselves until later.”
The language makes it clear that we are asked to do something. It is then that the internal argument begins: “I can’t act too Catholic. What will my friends think? I work at the festival and send my kids to Catholic school. What more does God want?” What God wants is for us to be present to others as He has just been present to us in the Eucharist. We say “yes” to God when we walk out of church on Sunday and see things through His eyes.
You say “yes” to God on the way home from church when your son asks if the two of you could toss the baseball in the neighborhood ballpark after brunch. God wants you to stop thinking about spending the afternoon working on a financial report and how you can beg off your son’s invitation and instead say “yes” to baseball time with your son.
God wants you to say “yes” when you walk in your front door and the phone rings and you learn that the caller is your elderly mother who wonders why she hasn’t heard from you in a couple of weeks. “Honestly, Mom, you just slipped my mind. I’ve been really busy….”
God wants you to say “yes” when your mother asks if you could come by this afternoon and put in her window screens and you think silently that you would rather do a hundred other things than go over to your mother’s home. But you feel so guilty for ignoring her that you go anyway. After the screens are in, your mother tells you that she is really worried about her finances and is having some health issues. You hold her hands and reassure her that you will be with her and that she is not alone. You silently pray for her. You say “yes” to God in doing so.
You get home from your mother’s house just in time to join the neighborhood guys on the deck to listen to a little radio baseball. The rookie from Texas belts one out of the park with bases loaded. Rob, the inactive Catholic neighbor shouts, “What a miracle!” Something possesses you to look him straight in the eye and say, “Yeah, Rob, God is still doing miraculous things.” After everyone goes home, Rob sits on the deck and asks you how he can get back to church. You say “yes” to God in being present to your neighbor.
All of us are in the same boat in trying to see things through God’s eyes. When we begin to see our lives outside Sunday Mass as the Gospel in action, we begin to realize that cloud-staring is the last thing God wants. He wants us to get off our duffs, roll up our sleeves, and do what we believe. God wants us to say “yes.”
Hunt is a nationally recognized catechetical leader and author.