Happy Feast of the Ascension as usually celebrated in the USA. Thursday was the real festival of the Great Commission but today (or yesterday evening in my case) is when it is really celebrated in most Catholic and some other Christian churches. At the mass I attended Fr. Louis Richard did a nice job of tying together this great feast and the national holiday of Memorial Day. Both holidays have meant a lot in my life.
Missions has a special connection to the Feast of the Ascension. Memorial day has many meanings for me, including remembering relatives I never met like Simon Drago killed defending Pearl Harbor in a hazardous training maneuver and not on the famous and infamous day. However, in recent years Memorial Day means remembering my cousin Severin Summers. Killed in action in Afghanistan, Sev is missed more than I deserve to miss him but less than he deserves to be missed. My great grandfather died of combat wounds in World War I but he died closer to World War II and after seeing my maternal grandfather ready to serve or having served in that great conflict as a bombardier instructor . But I never knew Kildren Gremillion, though I grew up with a lot of stories about his life, service and how long and hard it was for him to die of poisonous gas from serving as an American soldier in the trenches of Europe’s deadly ordeal of an earlier generation. Sev I did know.
I could say a lot of things from my own experience about the Ascension, Jesus’s command to proclaim the gospel and make disciples is heard by all Christians. I am not devoting much time and space to this post but I have a Facebook friend who is an Episcopalian pastor and am sharing his post which offers a different perspective.
Almost two thousand years ago, last Thursday, Jesus Christ, having lived about thirty years in the Roman Province of Palestine (and sometimes in its Jewish puppet-state, Judea), and having been arrested, tried, crucified and buried, and having on the third day after risen from the dead, and having associated with his Galillean hillbilly disciples for another seven weeks thereafter, ascended into Heaven to be with his Father, God Almighty. He’s there, now, interceding for us, his imperfect and all-too-human brothers and sisters. Tomorrow morning at 8:30, we’ll celebrate that fact at Christ Chapel in Fairdealing, and we’d like to invite you to join us. There will be no 10:30 service there, as it’s the last Sunday of the month and Fr. Hiter willl be at St. Mark’s Anglican, in Benton, whose people are between clergymen at the moment. If you’re in (or closer to) Benton than Fairdealing, you might join the folks of St. Mark’s. They’d love to have you.
The point is that we all have missions of consequence. Americans and Christians and especially Christian Americans are reminded of those missions in a special way this weekend. I hope that we all rise to the occasion. I hope we all honor those who have. But whether we acknowledge them or not, sufficiently or not — the duty and the sacrifice for a great cause has a reality beyond our making.