It Won’t Be the Same
What if Jesus had not ascended into heaven? What if he never left the disciples? These questions offer me an opportunity to reflect on what we will experience at this weekend’s liturgies of the Mass. I believe that it will apply to those of us at St. Francis physically as well as those who are at home, celebrating Mass as a domestic church. Wherever we choose to be, we are one—one community of St. Francis of Assisi.
If Jesus had not left, he would have been confined to a geographical area with only those who encountered him physically. But by dying and rising, by spending another 40 days reinforcing his teaching, Jesus made it possible for an encounter with him to continue through his followers. Jesus’ words before he ascended were “go…and make disciples of all nations….I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Through the ages, that commission has endured as has the promise of God’s presence and care for us. I call that Providence!
As our church reopens this weekend, much will be different! This pandemic has changed us—as individuals, as a community, as a parish. Last Sunday, a group of my friends and I were challenged with this question: What have you learned about yourself in the midst of this pandemic? How have you changed? We can ask the same thing about our community, our parish.
It won’t be the same on Saturday and Sunday! It will be different for many reasons. The old skins will no longer contain the new wine, as it is said. It is time however to imagine what is new about us and how we choose to dream for our parish. We won’t be participating in the same way, but we do have the opportunity to listen. We might begin to identify with those who are often not included and not given a voice. Perhaps this is the gift of the Spirit that God is awakening in us.
We will discover new places in the pews and new neighbors. We will thank God for the ways in which we have learned to value what really matters in our lives, and what we can do without. We can sit sharing a common table, at the altar with Father and at the table in our homes. We can identify with those who have access to the Eucharist a few times of the year only.
We share conversations that express our deepest longings—the prayers of the faithful, at church and at home. We answer the call to make disciples, to be disciples trusting that we are not alone.
We see signs all around us. Newness is among us and within us. Like many of the plants on our beautiful grounds, we are in various stages of growth—full bloom, opening and unfurling, and in some cases just buds. All are signs of something new—a dream God has for our parish. Together, at church and at home, we discover that dream for us! We need each other. We need God.
“I am with you always, until the end of the age.” Jesus’ promise to his disciples then and to us today! Let us do more than survive! Let us thrive!