"Why are you standing there looking at the sky?"

“In Matthew’s gospel, before Jesus ascends, he tells them, very simply, ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.’ He urges them to baptize, to teach, to carry on the work that he has begun. But his first direction is so clear: ‘Go.’ The world is waiting. Act on what I have taught you.

And the reading from Acts even challenges them. As they have watched him disappear into the clouds, two men ask them: ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?’

The apostles were not supposed to spend their time staring nostalgically at the stars. There was work to be done. They left the mountain, went into the city, and prepared for the phenomenal mission that was about to start – the spreading of the gospel to every corner of the world.

It is tempting on this feast of the Ascension to experience it the way the apostles did, to gaze into the heavens and to ponder the clouds and to pray over the miracle of this great moment.

But Christ’s words to his apostles are words to us all. ‘Go.’ The world will not be converted on a mountaintop. The message will not be spread in the clouds. It will happen in the streets and the synagogues, in public squares and private homes, in books and newspapers and media of all kinds. It needs to be lived in the world.

— Homily for Ascension Thursday, from 2008.
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  1. That’s a great picture! Do you know the artist?

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