Today Catholic Christians celebrate the feast of the Ascension of the Lord.
The story takes place after Jesus had risen from the dead and had appeared to his disciples many times.  As he was getting ready to ascend bodily into heaven, Jesus appeared to his disciples for a final time and gave them some instructions.
First, he told them that they would soon be baptized with the Holy Spirit.

Second, he told them that it was not up to them to know about God’s timing.  Specifically, he said, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority” (Acts 1: 7).

Third, he gave them the missionary mandate when he said, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16: 15), and he told them he should baptize the people (Mark 16: 16).

After he had given the disciples instructions and promised them that the Holy Spirit would come upon them, he ascended into heaven.

This homily focuses on the part of the Ascension story that discusses the missionary mandate – or command – that Jesus gave his disciples.  Specifically, it focuses on the idea that although everyone gets the command to take the good news of Jesus to the whole world, not all receive the same gifts.  In today’s selecion we have from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, for example, we read, “And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ” (Ephesians 4: 11-13).

Before discussing the concept of gifts and our vocation, let’s look at a beautiful Mother’s Day story about how a teacher learned how important her own vocation was in the life of a child in need.

Ms. Thatcher came to an elementary school to teach mathematics.  After a few months, she learned her student’s names and individual talents.  There was one boy, however, that she could not quite understand.  His name was Bob, and every day he came to school dressed untidily and seemed to be lost in another world.  Each day, his performance was worse, and the other students would laugh when Bob could not answer even the simplest question.

So, Ms. Thatcher looked though Bob’s progress reports from the past.  She was shocked to discover that in the past, he had had the best grades in the class.  She discovered that his performance began to decline when he mother became ill.  Then, his mother died, leaving him with his father.  Unfortunately, Bob’s father had to travel a lot as a businessman.

In addition to having problems academically, the school’s reports said that Bob had forgotten how to laugh and showed no interest in any activity.  He had become a loner, and his friends had abandoned him.  Ms. Thatcher’s eyes filled with tears as she read the report.

As a good teacher, Ms. Thatcher began to work with Bob individually when the other students left for the day.  With this individual attention, soon Bob began improving academically, and he began to smile once again.  Over the next semester, he began to show up to school clean and properly dressed, and his classmates began to become friendly with him again.

One Friday, when the other students had left the classroom for the day, Bob stayed behind and gave Ms. Thatcher a gift-wrapped box.  He told her not to open it until Sunday.

On Sunday morning, Ms. Thatcher opened the box and discovered a bottle of perfume, half filled.  Bob had written a small letter to her saying that this bottle of perfume used to be his mother’s and he wished that Ms. Thatcher would wear it so that every time she was around him, he could feel his mother near him.  He thanked her for everything she had done for him.

Ms. Thatcher checked the calendar and noted it was the second Sunday of May – Mother’s Day in the United States.  The tag attached to the perfume said, “Happy Mother’s Day!”

Ms. Thatcher realized that not only did she make a difference in Bob’s life, but that he had taught how just how valuable and profound was her own vocation.

The story of Ms. Thatcher and the original disciples of Jesus highlight many things we can learn.  Here are just three.

First, God gives each of us gifts, and each of us is to approach our gifts as good stewards.  That means we are to thank God for our gifts, develop them, share them abundantly with others, and give God the first fruits of our gifts.

Second, we use our gifts to live out of vocations.  Parents, for example, are called to use a wide variety of gifts to perform their amazingly complex set of tasks to develop their children into good human beings.

And third, we should remember that we live our vocations for two reasons: for personal sanctification, and to build up the kingdom of God here on Earth.

As we continue our life journeys this week, it would be a good idea to reflect on the gifts God has given us.  What specific gifts do we have?  How are we developing them?  How are we sharing them to make us better people and creating a better world?

And that is the good news I have for you on the feast of the Ascension, 2018.

                                                                                                                                               

Story source:  Anonymous.  “An Inspirational Mother’s Day Story.”  SmilePls.com, No date.