I am recording this reflection at a time when the corona virus pandemic has gripped our country and our world, causing immense hardship and fear. In such a context, how do the readings for the feast of Jesus' ascension console us and encourage us to respond as his friends and disciples?
In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, after his resurrection, Jesus gathered the eleven apostles and reminded them of all they had seen and heard as they journeyed over their three years together; for example, the wedding feast at Cana, calming the storms at sea, the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. The apostles were all present with Jesus on these occasions. Jesus commissioned the apostles and each one of us, to continue the work they had done together. Jesus spoke to the apostles of their baptism of water, reminding them of John at the River Jordan. Jesus purposely mentioned this as baptism unites us together as a community of believers. The apostles persistently questioned Jesus, not sure what to make of his statements. They certainly were not comprehending the reality of the moment. Jesus assured them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Yet, they continued to be hesitant of just what was happening.
In the letter to the Ephesians, the author speaks of seeing with the “eyes of the heart” – what does that mean? Maybe the “eyes of the heart” could refer to seeing life situations through the eyes of faith? Perhaps it is denoting a glimpse of the Spirit of God in ourselves? God is revealed to us through our deepest longings, our dreams and our hopes. Perhaps, the “eyes of the heart” signifies believing the unconditional and eternal love God has for each and every one of us. The existing thread we see and hear, “God is always with us, God will not leave us orphaned. To quote, The Little Prince, “It is only with the heart, that one can see rightly, what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Matthew’s Gospel takes us to the heart of today’s feast. It describes the eleven apostles gathered with Jesus. Just as he did at the beginning of his public ministry, Jesus clearly calls each of his apostles to “Go Forth” and continue his mission. Jesus formed a community, a community of believers, a community of service. Jesus’ life has come full circle. Jesus came to earth as a helpless infant, he grew and lived life to the full. Jesus established a circle of friends … Joseph and his mother Mary; the apostles, Mary Magdalene, Mary, Martha and Lazarus; Nathaniel, Zacchaeus, the Centurion, and countless others. Jesus helps the poor, Jesus heals the sick, Jesus welcomes the marginalized.
The Feast of the Ascension commemorates Jesus’ time to go back to God, his Abba, where he will remain in Glory.
This feast speaks so directly to each one of us amid these uncertain and frightening times - WE are called like the Apostles, WE are being sent, to open our hearts to Jesus; to stand, serve and be with the poor among us; to welcome the marginalized, to help the sick, to forgive one another – simply put, to LOVE as Jesus; to make our World a dwelling as envisioned by Jesus – united with one another, in love. Most importantly, Jesus lets us know, in no uncertain words, that he will send the Holy Spirit to us. Jesus, promises not to leave us orphans for he will be with us, all day, every day until the end of time!
Together, let us pray for the gift of hope that we may be able to meet the challenges of each day with love, courage and conviction: ~ Generous God, fill our hearts!
Cathe Shoulberg, RSM
Cathe Shoulberg, RSM, the youngest of five children of Kit and Charley Shoulberg is a Sister of Mercy of the Mid-Atlantic Community. Born and raised in East Norriton, PA, Sister Cathe, she received a BS in Education from Gwynedd Mercy University; a Master’s in Education, from Arcadia University. Cathe took further courses in Administration at Villanova University and the University of Dayton. She participated in Retreats International, a Theology Update Program at the University of Notre Dame.
For fifteen years, Sister Cathe taught First Grade in various parish schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Camden. She was the principal of St. Elizabeth School in the diocese of Allentown for five years and in June, 2018 completed a thirty year tenure as Principal at St. Helena School, Blue Bell.
Upon leaving St. Helena, in June of 2018, a Sabbatical year followed – this included a six-week Sabbatical Program at Mercy by the Sea, Madison, CT.; Two weeks volunteering at Annunciation House, El Paso, TX, ministering to the migrant guests. She was also a participant in the International program, “Come Home to Catherine” at Mercy International Center, Dublin, Ireland. In February, 2020, Cathe participated in a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land, “Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus”, under the leadership of Father James Martin, SJ.
Since September, 2019, Cathe started a new ministry: Supervisor of Student Teachers from Gwynedd Mercy University. Also, a volunteer at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, Philadelphia, in Pastoral Care as a Eucharistic Minister and a NICU “Baby Cuddler”. In January, 2020, she began as a volunteer at Children’s Hospital, Philadelphia, working the “WaWa Cart”.
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