Sunday, June 1, 2014

Homily at Holy Spirit Catholic Community, Ascension, June 1, 2014 by Rev. Beverly Bingle, RCWP

Maya Angelou has ascended into heaven.
What that "ascension" means for us in the 21st century
has to be expressed in terms
of our understanding of God and creation and ourselves,
and for me that means
that she remains alive in our memories
and will always be part of us.
She once said, "I've learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel."
Those of us who admired her life and poetry
remember how she made us feel,
and that means that we are going through an experience
that helps us understand today's Gospel.
This past Friday morning
I had my morning coffee with a small group of good friends
(after having had earlier morning coffee at Claver House
with another group of good friends),
and one of them described it this way.
He said that, when a person dies, and for a short time after,
we are in a holy place, a sacred space.
We go about thinking of the person often, missing them,
grieving their passing and our loss.
We are often startled to think we see them alive--
a glance at someone wearing a shirt the same color he wore,
or leaning over to smell a lilac like she loved to do,
or hearing a car come in the drive
and thinking they've come home from a meeting
before we remember that they won't be coming home again.
At the same time, we flash back to things they did and said,
thinking a lot about them, replaying memories of them
in our mind, and with our family and friends.
Through it all, and forevermore,
the person stays inside us
and is always part of us.
Fr. Richard Rohr talked about the "sacred space"
that comes after important events
as a kind of communal consciousness--
a suspension of ordinary consciousness,
a heightened awareness,
a deepened compassion,
a renewed conviction.
It happened to us in this country
when President Kennedy was assassinated.
It happened following the 9/11 attacks.
It happens when we fall in love, or get ordained.
And it happens when someone we love dies.
The apostles, in today's reading, are up on the mountain--
that holy place where God met with Moses,
where Jesus taught them.
They experience Jesus again,
remember what he said, feel his presence.
They understand Jesus in a way
that had not been possible before he died.
He is bigger than life, beyond life.
His teachings settle more deeply into them,
and they are compelled to share them.
They repeat his words and teachings
and contemplate their meanings
and continue to shape their decisions and their lives
in keeping with his wisdom.
Our tradition includes an understanding
that we call "the Communion of Saints"--
the belief that our ancestors and our contemporaries
are alive to us here and now.
It's a mystical statement of Divine Presence,
uniquely within each of us,
as being connected with all being, all matter, all energy--
with God and each other.
When I was growing up in the '50s,
this dogma was represented in religious art
as a group of white-robed, haloed saints
hovering in awe above and around the priest
as he lifted the consecrated bread at Mass.
That image doesn't work for me anymore,
mainly because--thank God!--science has led us all
to a much grander and more powerful vision
of God and the universe and all that is in it.
It's communion with the grandeur of all of creation.
So today we celebrate the ascension--the growth--
of Jesus of Nazareth
from that holy Galilean preacher
into the friend who remains with us always,
in everlasting communion.
We remember what he stood for, and how he lived,
and the way he taught us to follow his example.
Like those first disciples,
we are compelled to build on the foundation he gave us--
to celebrate our communion
with him and each other and all the world,
as he showed at the Last Supper;
and to wash each other's feet,
as he did at the Last Supper,
by dedicating everything we have and are
to serving the least among us.

Holy Spirit Catholic Community
at 3535 Executive Parkway (Unity of Toledo)
Saturdays at 4:30 p.m.
Sundays at 9 a.m.
Sundays at 5:30 p.m.

Rev. Dr. Bev Bingle, Pastor

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