Back to the Village

BY FR. BRIAN ZUMBRUM, OSFS

The Ascension of the Lord | June 2, 2019

See today’s readings here. This homily focuses on the second reading. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found hereSalesian Sermons

To start this homily, I would like to take you all back to when I was in eighth grade.

This awkwardly thin kid with really big ears and absolutely no muscle tone.  

If you’re struggling to form the picture in your head, just look at me because not much has changed.

Now, I know this may be hard to imagine, but I was your classic theater nerd during grade school and high school.

I know I know.  Who would ever think of me as dramatic?  It’s shocking.

So, we had just finished our final show as eighth grade students and had spent the afternoon tearing down the set.

And then suddenly one of us starts crying. And not just a few happy tears. I mean full on, ugly crying.  That crying when you struggle to catch your breath.

And then suddenly it wasn’t just one of us.  It was about 10 of us. We just walked around the now empty gym sobbing.

Now, our art teacher had the patience of Job.  And she allowed us to cry and cry for what felt like an eternity.

But then the buses started arriving to take us home and she still had a bunch of sobbing eighth graders in her care.

So she gathered us together, looked at us and gave us a choice that I have never forgotten.

She said, “Look, kiddos. The buses are here. Now, you can get on the bus. Or you can     choose to stay and have your parents pick you up. But you cannot stay here. So don’t let the bus driver make the decision for you. Make your own choice.”

In just a few lines, she was empowering us to move forward, even when we didn’t think we could.

But ultimately, she was right. Each of us got on the bus that day.  

And I couldn’t help but think back to that moment as I listened to the readings for this weekend.  The weekend when we celebrate the Ascension.

For I totally get the disciples standing on that hillside looking up into the clouds.

They have been through so much together.  Miraculous healings and long conversations     around the dinner table.  Sermons on the Mount and boat rides across a stormy lake.  Betrayal and crucifixion. And then resurrection.

And now he was leaving.  A chapter was ending. And it was unclear what the new chapters would like.

And when the two angels challenge them like my art teacher did to us so many years ago, they too are faced with a choice.

They can stay on that hillside clinging to what has gone.

Or they can head back into the village, transformed by that encounter.

My friends, it seems so fitting that this feast comes at this time of year.

For many of us are having our own Ascension moments.

We are preparing to transition jobs or retire, leaving behind our hilltop that we have        labored on, sometimes for decades.

We are preparing to graduate, leaving behind our hilltops in which we have found our        place, discovering who we are and what we were capable of.

We are watching our children take the next step, moving one step farther away from us     on their own journeys.  Whether walking across the stage with their fellow kindergarteners or moving out of the house or preparing for the arrival of their own children.

And like those disciples, we too are confronted with a choice.

We can attempt to cling to the status quo.  To resist change. Acting as if we can freeze        time and keep everything and everyone just the way they are.

We can keep staring into the clouds, waiting for the world to go back to the way it was.

Or we can take a final look around at the magnificent view and then head down into the villages that await us, transformed by the hilltop we have journeyed up.

Blessed by the one who promises to remain with us until he returns in glory.

The choice is ours my friends.

Let’s get moving. We don’t want to miss the bus.

May God be Praised.

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