“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
This is Jesus’ command in today’s Gospel for Ascension Thursday. For some of us, this is a Holy Day; other dioceses have moved the feast to Sunday.
Whether or not this is a Holy Day depending on our address, Jesus’ words are an imperative. GO! How do we make disciples? It starts by how we live. As Pope Francis has indicated over and over again, in the model of Christ, we must evangelize with our lives. GO!
This past Sunday I was out of town and attended a particularly joyless liturgy. No music, rushed readings, and a rushed Eucharistic Prayer, but a long and garrulous homily, full of scolding. But what really struck me was that no joy was present anywhere. The people sat in the pews, some of them reading their missalettes or bulletins, some older ladies were praying the rosary, beads passing through their gnarled fingers.
Am I spoiled to worship weekly in a place suffused with joy? Not to mention, great music, excellent preaching, and no rushing, especially during the Eucharistic Prayer. I’d love to think this was the standard everywhere, yet I know otherwise. Spoiled we are.T he reasons for this are many, and that is fodder for another post. And yes, I do think that whoever pastors the community does matter.
Parishioners can blame their priests or bishops, priests – like the one I met Sunday can scold their flocks, as can bishops. We can blame so many things, but in the end, there is but one Christ. The joylessness that pervades us is a challenging an evil as any, if you ask me, one that separates us from God. Remember joy is not happiness. The joy of Christ present in our hearts, is also found in the midst of sadness, suffering, loss, grief, and more. How can we encourage one another, no matter where we are?
If you can, find a place where your heart soars in community. It can be difficult to find such a place, but I pray you seek one. GO! It is in such places that we become infected with joy, which is how we evangelize with our lives. I just read this at Diana Macalintal’s Facebook page: “Quod itaque redemptoris nostri conspicuum fuit, in sacramenta transivit – Saint Leo the Great … Where are you looking for the Risen Christ? If it doesn’t involve the singing and praying assembly, then you might be missing the mystery of Christ’s presence right in front of you.” GO! Find the well of joy where worship nourishes you in prayer, Word, song, and Eucharist. GO! How can we make disciples of all nations if we are joyless, dour and alone? Can we make disciples of all nations if we are not part of a community? Probaby not. GO!
Today my prayer for all who grace these pages is for your joy. Please pray for my own, it does flag from time to time, as I’m sure yours does. Yet our joy is in Christ who is risen and who is now ascended. May we be Christ for one another and for all those we encounter. If we do not find ourselves amongst people of joy, then we must continue to seek. This means we must encourage one another, even if from afar. This is why we must pray always!
Today we go – GO! Go and make disciples of all nations, go radiating the joy of Christ in our hearts. Go! Go! GO!
Please go, because somewhere out there, someone in need of joy, is waiting for one of us to show up. Thus, we must GO!
(Two parting thoughts. One is this – don’t forget the powerful papal exhortation, downloadable for free, Evangelli Gaudium, the Joy of the Gospel. Number two, as old fashioned as it may sound, this is a perfect time to begin a novena to the Holy Spirit, starting on Friday. Jesus has ascended, promising the Spirit to come. In these nine powerful days of waiting, let us pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Ask for guidance, ask for joy. Let us pray together as one in Christ.)