Ascension Sunday and World Communications Day
This is the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord. This Feast is celebrated in connection with World Communications Day. We are invited to reflect upon the diversity of media of social communication and how they influence our lives.
The Ascension is the occasion on which Jesus invites believers to go out into the whole world. Thus, it is an appropriate day for us to acknowledge the power of social media. Whatever the means of communication, we have seen how powerful it can be in promoting values that lead to a more fully human society. This year of the pandemic has revealed how important diverse forms of communication are, in helping believers to stay connected to the body of Christ.
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 speaks 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?
We share in the inner life of God in our daily lives by having a relationship with God. That means we pray. 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 his cell. 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.
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.
Today’s commemoration of the 55th World Communications Day offers one way for us to witness. This year’s theme is Come and See: Communicating by Encountering People Where and as They Are. Pope Francis released a letter in January of this year, on the Feast of St Francis de Sales.
He sees this invitation from one another as the basic method for all authentic human communication. It’s not good enough for us to be complacent, but to actually go and see them for ourselves, to spend time with people, to listen to their stories and to confront the reality of the lives of people.
Francis points out that the invitation to come and see has always been the way that the Christian faith has been communicated, from the time of the first encounters with Jesus of Nazareth. He offers illustrations of the way in which that invitation is still alive, for example in the work of courageous journalists at work throughout the world, often risking their lives to offer an account of how people are living.
Some of Francis’ illustrations are connected to the particular challenges that have come along in the time of COVID. He also offers reflections on the opportunities and hidden dangers of the internet.
The Pope ends his letter with a prayer.
Lord, teach us to move beyond ourselves,
and to set out in search of truth.
Teach us to go out and see,
teach us to listen,
not to entertain prejudices
or draw hasty conclusions.
Teach us to go where no one else will go,
to take the time needed to understand,
to pay attention to the essentials,
not to be distracted by the superfluous,
to distinguish deceptive appearances from the truth.
Grant us the grace to recognize your dwelling places in our world
and the honesty needed to tell others what we have seen.