Ascension and the Inner Life – World Communications Day 2019
The Ascension of the Lord commemorates the fortieth day after Easter Sunday. It celebrates the completion of God’s work of human salvation (which started with Good Friday), Christ’s entry into heaven, and the promise that we will share in eternal life with God.
Benedict XVI spoke about this feast: “The meaning of Christ’s Ascension expresses our belief that in Christ the humanity we all share has entered into the inner life of God in a new and unheard of way. It means that we have found an everlasting place in God.”
We believe that we will share in God’s heavenly gifts after our death. But, what does it mean in our day-to-day life to say that we hope to enter into the inner life of God? Let me offer three ways in which we can live our lives as if we share in the inner life of God here on earth.
Quite simply, we share in the inner life of God in our daily lives by having a relationship with God. That means we pray. It does not matter how we pray.
The most sensible form of prayer is whatever works for us – the use of scripture, spiritual reading, journaling, a prayerful walk in the beauty of nature, the Rosary, or participation in the daily Eucharist. Or, some people find that they maintain that relationship by speaking with others about God.
There are as many ways to pray as there are people praying. We have to find a method that makes sense for our personality and for what is going on in life. For instance, I pray differently when I am busy or when I have all the time in the world to pray. I pray differently if I am well or if I am sick. I pray differently if I am anxious or if I am at peace.
Secondly, we manifest our sharing in God’s life whenever we actually live our lives from a conviction that Christ is with us in an ongoing way. Do we really believe Jesus when he says, “I am with you always, to the end of the age”?
We can only answer that by looking at our lives with a discerning eye about how we live. That discerning eye is a form of contemplation. I am not referring to some form of contemplation that is exercised by a monk sitting in a chapel.
Rather, I am using a notion that has been offered by a Jesuit who defines contemplation as “a long, loving look at the real.”
To take such a loving look is to discover God’s life and presence in all kinds of ways – some obvious and some not so obvious. When we take that long look, we discover God’s presence even in the midst of difficult, challenging and painful circumstances, not just in a day where everything works out well.
To share in God’s life is to truly believe that Christ is with me always, whatever is happening in my life. Can I take that loving look at my own life story, at the story of someone else, at my family secrets, at a tragedy in the world? To share in God’s inner life is to be aware of the sacredness of our lives and our daily activities and responsibilities, even when they are not easy.
Finally, once we have a relationship with God and take that long, loving look at everyone and everything around us, we are motivated to action. We desire that others share in that sense of God’s inner life. Jesus told his followers, “You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth.”
There are many ways to witness to Christ. The Feast of the Ascension has been commemorated as World Communications Day for the past 53 years. This Ascension we are reminded of that call we all share in, to spread the Good News of God’s presence in the world.
We have access to more instruments of communication than ever before. How do we use them for good, for building up the Body of Christ rather than tearing her apart?
The theme for the day this year is, “We are members one of another” (Eph 4:25) – From network community to human communities.
The Vatican Press Office has this to say about the theme.
“The theme underlines the importance of giving back to communication a broad perspective, based on the person, and emphasizes the value of interaction always understood as dialogue and as an opportunity to meet with others. This calls for a reflection on the current state and nature of relationships on the Internet, starting from the idea of community as a network between people in their wholeness. Some of the prevailing trends of the so-called social networks ask us a fundamental question: to what extent can we speak of a real community in the face of the logic that characterizes some communities on social media?
The metaphor of the web as a community of solidarity implies the construction of an “us”, based on listening to the other, on dialogue and consequently on the responsible use of language.
In his first Message for World Communications Day in 2014, the Holy Father called for the Internet to be “an environment rich in humanity, a network not of wires but of people”.
The choice of the theme for the 2019 Message confirms Pope Francis’ attention to the new communications environment and for social networks, especially, where he is present in the first person with his @Pontifex account on Twitter and @Franciscus on Instagram.”