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Ascension of the Lord and World Communications Day

Today is Ascension Sunday. As such, it is also the 56th annual commemoration of World Communications Day. The theme chosen by Pope Francis for this year is Listening with the ear of the heart.  As he says at the start of his annual message, listening is a condition for genuine dialogue. It is a great need for each one of us: to be heard, to be listened to.

The hearer does not have to provide answers or advice. It’s enough to actually pay attention. In scripture, listening connects with the dialogue between God and humanity. How often scripture reminds us that we refuse to listen. Francis points out that interior deafness is far worse that physical deafness. King Solomon proved himself wise because he asked for a “listening heart” (1 Kings 3:9).

The message for this special day is released on January 24 each year, the Feast of Saint Francis de Sales. The commemoration itself happens today. The theme of heart listening is quite beautiful.

That comes across in the Pope’s annual message. He does not shy away from the issues of our day, such as forced migration, information overload, and so on. It’s a short message, but definitely qualifies as spiritual reading. https://www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/messages/communications/documents/20220124-messaggio-comunicazioni-sociali.html [1]

We are invited today 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. These years of the pandemic have revealed how important diverse forms of communication are, in helping believers to stay connected to the body of Christ. Did you attend TV Masses? Were you at ZOOM gatherings?

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.