PASSING THE BATON
Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23 or 4:1-13; Mark 16:15-20
The 4×100 relay is thrilling. The most exciting/important time is the baton exchange; many a race has been lost because of poor baton exchange. Since 1988, US quartets have been disqualified or haven’t finished the event nine times at the World Championships and the Olympics – even though they had the fastest runners – because of foul ups at baton exchanges.
The Ascension is Jesus passing the baton to his disciples in the great human and Christian race. He has prepared them over three years and especially over the 40 days after the resurrection. It is time for them to take over.
The ascension completes Jesus’ leg of the relay and his mission on earth to bring the good news to the afflicted, liberty to captives, sight to the blind – in short, to bring wholeness to people.
The ascension begins the disciples’ part of the relay: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” Mark establishes an immediate connection between Jesus’ ascension and the disciples’ mission: “So the Lord Jesus… was taken up into heaven… But they went forth and preached everywhere.”
This continuation of the mission is a massive challenge. But the Lord assures us that he is with us through his Spirit.
The scene from the Acts, in today’s first reading, is modelled on the experience of Joshua and Elisha. Joshua received a share of Moses’ spirit and Elisha received a double share of Elijah’s. Jesus assures his disciples that they will receive the power to continue his work: the Holy Spirit.
Despite this promise, they remained there “gazing into heaven.” They have not understood that they must look towards the earth – the locus of their mission.
The baton has been passed to us. The mission is ours; the Spirit and power of the Lord are ours. Am I willing to carry the baton and run my leg of the race? How will I continue Christ’s mission in the area in which I live and work?
PS: It takes time and practice for relay teams to run well. US national teams have little of that; the relay is an all-star team that rarely runs together. I need time with the Lord to receive the baton; I need to be in the correct “exchange-zone”; I need to run with the team… always!
(Fr Vinod SDB, Rector and Secretary, Don Bosco Provincial House, Mumbai)