Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church
Hot Springs Village, Arkansas
Have you ever noticed how different things can look, depending on where you are sitting?  Let me give you an example.  I like to drive, which is fortunate living here in the Village, and I consider myself a good driver.  But I remember when I was teaching my oldest daughter to drive.  I had to sit in the passenger’s seat.  Everything looks different when you are sitting there.  The curbs are much closer, mailboxes are right next to your head, cars in the lane next to you look like they are in your lap.  As scary as the driving lessons were, do you remember the first time you gave your son or daughter the car keys and they went out on their own.  In your car, the one that you were still making payments on.  That’s when you really learned about faith, the first time they take the wheel all alone, without you.

The Ascension is a little like that, it can look different depending on whether, like the apostles in the first reading we are standing here looking up at the sky or whether like God, we are looking down from above.  We usually think of faith as something we have with respect to God.  It’s how we relate to God.  But the Ascension shows us that faith is also something God has with respect to us.  The Ascension shows God’s faith in us, his willingness to leave earth and in a sense hand the car keys over to us.

This world, and everything in it, is God’s creation.  And Genesis tells us that he looked on it and said “It is good, it is very good.”  And he turned the world over to us, he gave us the steering wheel, stepped back and smiled.  But we ruined it. God, not willing to let his world be ruined, stepped into history, the Uncreated One entered creation, became one of us and redeemed us by his perfect obedience, an obedience that resulted in Christ’s death and resurrection.  We and all of creation were redeemed and at a great price.  

Now God has a choice:  to stay with us on earth, sit in that passenger seat and continue to show us how to love as he loves OR to ascend back to the Father and let us try again.  I think it is a measure of his faith in us that he ascends back to the Father.  So today we celebrate God’s faith in us.  Faith that we will carry on his mission.  Faith that as our first reading told us: You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.  What keeps us from being his witnesses or maybe the right question is what keeps us from being successful witnesses of Christ’s love in the world?  Probably many things but one of them has to be joy.  As a group we are not a very joyful people.  If we have been saved we certainly don’t seem happy about it. We spend more time “sending up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this valley of tears” than we do rejoicing with God over all he has given us, over all he has done for us. Our responsorial psalm said “God mounts his throne to shouts of joy.”  Where are the shouts of joy in our life?   Here is the secret - joy has to find us, we don’t find it.  We can never attain joy, forgiveness, or love by actively pursuing them.  We attain them by giving them out.  That is one of life’s paradoxes:  the more you give of yourself, of your joy, your forgiveness, your love; the more you will receive back.  Joy will come to us if we set about actively trying to be joyful to others.  That is the kind of witnesses we are called to be; joy-filled sinners who have been saved.

The choice is ours, God has left us the keys to the car, put his faith in us.  Are we going to shout with joy or just sadly go through the motions of life?