Our Ordinary, Essential Work

The Ascension of the Lord | May 24, 2020

See today’s readings here. This homily was preached online due to Covid-19. Video recordings of the Sunday evening Mass, where Fr. Brian regularly preaches, are available on Facebook at Delaware Koinonia. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found hereSalesian Sermons


So a few years ago, I had the opportunity to travel to the Holy Land.

I was so excited as I pictured myself being in all of these places I had learned about and preached on for years.

So the 1st day, our guide shares the itinerary.

And the very 1st place we will be stopping is the place where Christ ascended.

Now, let’s not think too carefully about how they kept track of the exact location all these years later.  My skeptical, cynical side didn’t have a chance that morning.

 I was totally in. I was ready to be moved. To be inspired. To be overwhelmed.

So I must admit, I was completely disappointed.

For the chapel that marked the spot was well, rather small to be quite honest.

And inside, was just a hole in the ground, containing a stone that had been worn smooth from generations of people touching it. And a candle shoved crookedly into the sand next to it.

That was the Ascension.

It was all so ordinary.  So plain.

I guess I assumed that the spot that marked such a dramatic moment would be a tad more awe-inspiring.

But as I reflected on the readings for this weekend, I began to question some of my assumptions about the Ascension.

Maybe the architects and pilgrims over the years had a better sense of this feast than I did.

For I realized I was like those disciples, still staring into the clouds, marvelling at the drama.

And missing the invitation to get back to work.

To return to the work of restoring the kingdom.

To return to the work of making disciples of all people.

For today is the day in which the mission of the Church is entrusted to us.

The mission to build up the body of Christ.

And the work of the Church is always going to be comprised of a million ordinary moments when we choose to build the kingdom.  When we choose to witness to what we believe by the words we say and the actions we choose.

I know that it is easy to be captivated by the dramatic moments in which people build the kingdom.

The martyrs who were nailed to crosses and stared down lions and cheerfully went to the guillotine.

The saints who sold off all their possessions and moved to the slums and gave their entire lives to the poor.

The eloquent preachers who inspired thousands to rush to rivers and accept baptism

But these actions will rarely be ours.

On the contrary, our work will be much more ordinary.  Much more plain.  And yet, just as essential.

For the mission of the Church is OUR mission.  All of ours. 

And so let us do the work of preaching and living this Gospel we believe.

Stopping in the moment to pray.  Teaching our children to pray.  Giving thanks for the gifts we have received.

Refusing to gossip.  Calling out a friend when they objectify a woman or say a racial slur.  Posting and sharing things that build the kingdom, not further divide it.  

Deliberately living more simply.  Volunteering time at the food pantry.  Donating money to our favorite non-profit.

Greeting people with a smile and kind word.  Making time for the phone call to a friend you haven’t heard from in a while.  Popping in for a socially distanced visit to a family member who lives alone.  

Being the 1st one to admit when one is wrong.  Extending grace and forgiveness when one is wounded by another.  Letting go of the accumulated hurts that weigh us down.

Wearing the mask.  Washing our hands.  Staying 6 feet apart.  Not out of fear, but out of love.   Love for the neighbor we could possibly infect.  

My friends, this is the work that lies before us.  The daily choice to be a Christian.  The daily choice to live our faith in such a way that others are inspired to do the same.

So let’s get to work.  

Heaven knows, there is plenty to be done.

May God be Praised

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