There is a story about a group of Allied soldiers, during the Second World War, passing through a village in France. They decided to stop for a short while and rest, before proceeding. One of the soldiers made his way to the Parish Church – or rather, what had been the Parish Church. The walls were still standing, but the roof had fallen in, as a result of damage done by bombing. In the sanctuary there was a niche, and in the niche a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The arms of the statue were stretched forward, and extended beyond the niche. When the roof had fallen in the hands of the statue had been chopped off. Someone had written below the statue: “I have no hands but yours”.
I believe that the glorious Ascension into heaven of Jesus, is a moment in which we receive the same mandate that He gave to his apostles. We have now become “the hands” of Jesus.
Sometimes, though, we may be too timid or cautious to accept that mission. We are called to action! Too often many people respond by thinking “I am not prepared’; “Aren’t there some courses to take in order to do this?”, “Who am I to do this?” We should not put off this mission. We should not frustrate this call of the Lord to all of us. We can all contribute – in our own ways – to the mission of Christ and his Church. We may look at someone else and say, “I could never do that”, “I am not like that”, “I don’t have those gifts”. But, we can each be that person sent by Jesus in our own way, and in our own time, and to our own people. The contribution of each will compliment that of others to bring the fullness of the message and life of Christ to others. In that way we will be fulfilling the mandate of Jesus, like in the gospel of today when He sent forth his disciples and they responded. Through their words and actions Jesus manifested himself, and He will do it again through us, if we take seriously His mandate and do as He has taught us.
The Feast of the Ascension is not only about Jesus ascending into heaven, to be with His Father, but about what He has left us to do in His name. The readings should make that obvious to us, that the work of Christ continues, the mission of Christ continues, and it does so through us. He tells us (if I can put words in his mouth), “I have no hands but yours”. At home, are we the hands of Christ, bringing understanding and forgiveness. At work, are we the hands of Christ, showing good example by using and sharing our time and talents well. At school, are we the hands of Christ, creating a positive atmosphere to learn and share. In our relationships and friendships, are we the hands of Christ, sharing the ‘Good News’ and bringing relief and healing through our presence in their lives. We are His hands, His mouth, His ears, His feet, and His heart. Let us be faithful to this mandate to each of us.
Bogdan Jański, responding to God’s grace, lived the mandate given to the apostles at the Ascension. He became the hands, ears, mouth, eyes, feet, and heart of Jesus, going out into the world to make a difference, and to bring about “the resurrection of society”.