Today’s reflection is for The Ascension Of The Lord, May 24, 2020, and the readings can be found by clicking here. It was offered as a reflection after the 6pm vigil Mass at O.L.A., in Turlock.
Last week I spoke of the Great Commandment to love, which we heard from John’s Gospel, and then we were told to take that love out into the world, and that’s what we heard from Jesus today, the Great Commission. Jesus tells his disciples that all power in heaven and on earth has been given to him, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,” he says, “baptize them in the name of the father, and the son, and the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Simple, right? Love, teach, baptize, obey. Obedience isn’t always easy, but Jesus needs us to stay in our lane.
“Stay in your lane,” is a popular saying circulating in the world today. For example, as a Marine, I was a Field Radio Operator. It was my job to maintain positive communication with command. When someone tried to tell me how to do my job, I may or may not have said, “Thank you for the advice, but my job is to communicate, and yours is to fire that machine gun…so maybe you should just stay in your lane.” “You do your job, I’ll do mine.” The example is harsh, I know, but the truth is that for us to complete our mission, each person had a job to do, from snipers, to radios, to logistics, and weapons. Things really do run more smoothly, and we are more able to accomplish our goal when each person “stays in their lane.”
Funny that Jesus, too, has to tell his disciples to stay in their lane! What’s the job of the disciple? We heard both last week and then this week, love God and neighbor (the Great Commandment), and then, get out there and do it! (the Great Commission).
It seems like we aren’t ever quite satisfied with just doing what we’re told, however. We want to know a little more than the next guy, and the next thing you know, we start thinking maybe we should be the one in charge! When it comes to the Kingdom of God that is what we call Original Sin. That’s how it started for Adam and Eve. “Don’t eat the fruit!” They wanted to know more and they believed the lie that God was somehow trying to rob them of their true happiness—rob them of their glory.
My Old Testament professor, Father Michael Guinan, told us that the problem with the human condition is very easy to understand—we simply don’t like being 2nd in command. Instead of humbling submitting to the will of God in our life, we seek to supplant God. We know he’s got rules, but we’ve got better ideas in mind! We believe that our happiness is bound up in rejecting God’s will and following our own will instead. And the wise man knows, that really never works out.
St. John of the Cross said, “What does it profit you to give God one thing if He asks of you another? Consider what it is God wants, and then do it.” The saints became saints when they surrendered their will to God’s will. What is God asking you to do? Do it.
Jesus tells his disciples all authority has been given to him, that they are going to be baptized in the Holy Spirit! “Whoa! That’s awesome, Jesus, we can’t wait! Woo-hoo!” would have been an appropriate response, but it’s almost like everything Jesus said went in one ear and out the other. Have you ever said something, only to have someone else TOTALLY change the subject on you? Almost like they weren’t listening to you at all? Jesus says you will receive the Spirit! And they ask, “When are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” “Wait, what? Were you listening to anything I just said?”
We know what God wants. We know his commands, and that we are to be his witnesses of love, and truth, and sacrifice, to the ends of the earth. That’s it. I know we have big plans and think we’ve got things all figured out, but I promise you this, there is no lasting joy outside of God’s will. Discipleship is not hard to understand, but it can be very hard to live, if we are not willing to surrender to the will of God for our life.
When we lived in Salinas, Mark was only about four years old. I was mowing the lawn and Mark wanted to help. I said great, I need you to pick up these sticks off the grass. He stood there upset and said he wanted to mow the lawn. He wasn’t even able to reach the handle! I said, “Son, if you really want to help, you can pick up these sticks. That’s what I need you to do.” Obstinate and angry, he refused, and, to my sadness and his, he never did share in my work.
God has work that he needs us to do. With our particular gifts, talents, and treasure, God calls us to do something beautiful with Him. He doesn’t force us though. He invites us to participate in His work of advancing his kingdom of love, justice, and peace. We just need to be willing to let go of the wheel. Trust in God and where God wants to take you. The Spirit will guide you there, if you’re willing to let God be God, and just stay in your lane.
As we journey toward Pentecost, let our prayer always be, “Not my will but yours be done.” May our heart’s desire be always to humbly do the father’s will. May we find the strength of the Holy Spirit to give God our “yes,” to stay in our lane, and do his will to the ends of the earth, if that’s where he calls us. Amen.