Old Joe was a rabid golfer. His nickname was “Joe the golfer.” He would play at every opportunity but, unfortunately, he was losing his eyesight. He couldn’t see the ball after he hit it off the tee, so he went to the starter and explained the problem with his eyesight and the starter said, “I’ve got just the partner for you, George over here. George is 90 years old but he has eyesight like an eagle.”
So Joe said, “Okay!” He then got up to the tee and hit the ball, but he couldn’t see where it went. He asked his companion, “George, did you see that? It was a terrific shot, magnificent. Did you see?”
George said, “Yeah, I saw it. It was a very good shot.”
“Where is it?” Joe asked.
George said, “I forgot!”
If you have a skill to hit the ball without knowing your target, your skill is useless, and you are not really a good golfer. If you have good eyesight without remembering the direction of life or what you are looking for, you are also not much better. Many junks in life have blocked the visions of our minds and hearts that we cannot see clearly the direction and purpose of our life. This is the why St. Paul prays that the Ephesians have the Spirit of wisdom, revelation and knowledge of the Lord Jesus, and their hearts be enlightened with the hope and the riches of glory among the holy ones.
It is very easy for us to get caught up in the “thick of thin things in life.” And what matters most gets buried under layers of pressing problems, immediate concerns, and compromising behaviors. We become forgetful. We no longer stay focused. You value your family. You value your marriage. You value your children. You love them. You want them to be happy. You know your parenting role. But if you don't stay focused on them you will not be a successful parent or spouse. Your marriage will suffer. Consequently there will be broken families, broken marriages, and broken friendships. What we can do to prevent this is to keep our focus on what is essential and stay above the ‘junks’ of life.
It is easy for us to get sidetracked. There is lot of “junks” in life to distract our attention, or to overwhelm us. The tale of a talented and gifted bloodhound in England is a good lesson for us. He started a hunt by chasing a full-grown male deer. During the chase a fox crossed his path, so he began now to chase the fox. A rabbit crossed his hunting path, so he began to chase the rabbit. After chasing the rabbit for a while, a tiny field mouse crossed his path, and he chased the mouse to the corner of a farmer's barn. The bloodhound had begun the hunt chasing a prized male deer for his master and wound up barking at a tiny mouse.
The feast of the Ascension is a reminder to all of us about the purpose of our life. The purpose of our life is to prepare ourselves for eternal life with God. There will be no eternal life without Jesus. Jesus comes into the world to show people that He is the way, the truth and the life. He starts the whole process from his incarnation to his death, his resurrection and today his ascension. St. Luke recalls the whole account in the first reading. He ascends to heaven right in front of his disciples’ eyes. The disciples continue to look intently at the sky. The two angels appear to them saying, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” Jesus will come again. That is our faith. There is a heaven. He is going there, and we will be going with him too. He will return to take us with him. So the first thing we can do is to have faith in Jesus. Can we do that? Yes, we can. We can choose to believe in Jesus or not to believe in him.
Before leaving his disciples, Jesus reassures them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be” (John 14:1-3). Everything Jesus has said and done is to help us to achieve this goal of eternal life. What we can do is to stay focused. This doesn’t mean that we will be perfect Christians. This doesn’t mean that we will never sin or doubt our faith. Even the disciples have doubts. They live with Jesus. They eat with Him. They witness many miracles he does, but they still have doubt. St. Matthew says in the Gospel reading, “They saw him. They worshiped him, but they doubted.” They have doubts and they also misunderstand Jesus. But they always want to work with God and return to their main mission in life.
They misunderstand Jesus at first. Their concerns and Jesus’ concerns are not the same. “Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?” They anticipate a political change for the Kingdom of Israel. They envision the people of Israel free from the Roman Empire. With Jesus as their new leader, Israel would become a powerful nation. People of other nations should have to look up to Israel. But once they realize that Jesus has different vision and dream, they accept Him as their Savior and his teachings as their way of life. They go out to preach the Gospel that Jesus wants them to preach. They resolve to live the life that Jesus wants them to live. Jesus does not anticipate a political change for the kingdom of Israel. The kingdom that Jesus wants his disciple to participate in is beyond borders, races and nationalities. It is the kingdom including all those who profess their faith in God through baptism.
We can work to transform our dreams and concerns into the dreams and concerns of Jesus. There are still hatred, bitterness, envy and division in our hearts. There are still borders and racial discrimination among people of different races, cultures and religions. There is still a strong sense of nationalism among nations and between different religious groups. Many Islamic people and nations are having their hatred for Americans and the West. In the Mideast, the Palestinians' concern is to have freedom. They fight for their freedom through suicide bombing and acts of terrorism. The Israelis' concern is to have their security. They want to be protected from other aggressive nations and people who want to destroy them. The political restless situations and violence in Libya, Yemen, Egypt and Syria are signs of human concerns that are not corresponding with what Jesus intend for humanity.
Therefore, his command to us is still urgent and valid, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. I am with you always.”
What we can do is to make this command of Jesus a reality in our life and the life of our families today. We can stay above the “junks of life” if we want to.