Der Vasken's Sermon on May 6, 2018
May 9, 2018
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
"Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward Heaven? This Jesus, Who has been taken up from you into Heaven, will come again in the same way as you saw Him go into Heaven." [Acts. 1:11]
Next Thursday is the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ. It's the day He ascended into Heaven to sit once again at the right hand of God-the-Father. The Feast of the Ascension was the day when Heaven and earth embraced. It's a day of worship. And a day of pilgrimage in the Holy Land of Jerusalem when countless thousands of Christian pilgrims from across the globe descend upon the Mount of Olives to kneel before the exact spot where Jesus spoke His last earthly message to His disciples and where they witnessed Him rise into the clouds of Heaven.
This feast marks a very important event in the life of Our Lord and in the life of the Christian faith. It marks the end of His earthly ministry in this world. Everything we know about our Christian faith from this day forward is given to us through the Holy Spirit. And in this Feast of the Ascension, we hear the very last words that Our Lord spoke to His followers: ". . . and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Right after Jesus' Ascension into Heaven took place, the Bible tells us that two angels, dressed in white, appeared to the disciples and addressed them with these words: "...Men of Galilee, why do you stand there looking up toward Heaven? This Jesus, Who has been taken up from you into Heaven, will come again in the same way as you saw Him go into Heaven."
Every time I read this quote from the Bible, it dawns on me that that the angel was not asking a question at all. The angels were delivering a message to the disciples and the message came across as more of a reprimand than a question. The angels of Heaven were chastising the disciples for spending time gazing into the clouds where Jesus had risen into Heaven. The message of these angels was clear:
- You must get on with the work of Christ in this world.
- You must "season" the world with all He taught you.
- You must speak the message of faith into the lives of children and adults.
- You must deliver the meaning of the Resurrection into the hearts of your loved ones and friends.
"...Men of Galilee, why do you stand there looking up toward Heaven?"
- "...Men of Galilee," you live in a world without Christ. It is a world badly in need of His teachings.
- "...Men of Galilee," you live in a world that seems to push itself away from God a little bit more every day.
- "...Men of Galilee," why are you standing there?
The angels of Heaven brought to the disciples a message from Jesus Himself telling them to stop staring into the clouds and go back into the cities and countryside and share their faith, work for the good of others, teach the message of the Almighty God, build up His Church and people and live out the faith.
Maya Angelou, the famed poet, offered a similar message during a commencement address she once delivered. She shared life lessons with the graduates. She said:
- "I've learned that no matter what happens or how bad it seems today, life does go on and it will be better tomorrow.
- I've learned that regardless of your relationship with your parents, you'll miss them when they're gone from your life.
- I've learned that making a "living" is not the same thing as making a "life."
- I've learned that life sometimes gives you a second chance.
- I've learned that whenever I decide something with an open heart, I usually make the right decision.
- I've learned that even when I have pains, I don't have to be one.
- I've learned that every day you should reach out and touch someone.
- People love a warm hug or just a friendly pat on the back.
- I've learned that I still have a lot to learn.
- I've learned that people will forget what you said; people will forget what you did; but people will never forget how you made them feel."
The poetic words of Maya Angelou. So on this Feast of the Ascension of Christ, let us all take what we've received from our Christian faith and make our world a better place. And remember the words of that gifted American poet:
- "People will forget what you said.
- People will forget what you did.
- But people will never forget how you made them feel."
The Feast of Ascension is a reminder to put our faith into action. The Feast of Ascension was known very well by our ancestors. May it be a feast we internalize as well. "...Men of Galilee," ..."People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."