Today is Ascension Sunday in the Liturgical Calendar, the day that Catholics finalize the period of Easter by reminding ourselves how Jesus Christ left this Earth, rising up through the clouds, promising to return one day. Although two angels did tell the Apostles that Jesus would come back the way that He left, we cannot know the time.
Because of the readings in Mass today, I was prompted to pay special attention to the last lines in the Creed that we recite: “. . . and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.” In an age of zombie movies and shows, it seems odd to say every Sunday morning that we’re looking forward to the resurrection of the dead, but that too is a reminder of the absurd and ridiculous qualities of some things we pay attention to— like zombie movies. It occurred to me for a split second during that recitation this morning, “What if it happens today, or this week . . .?” Often we interpret the fact that we cannot know the time to mean that it must be a long way off. It might be— then again it might not.
And the language in those lines strikes me, too. When we say that we “look forward” to something, the connotation of enthusiasm ignites generous levels of excitement. We look forward to going on vacation, or we look forward to getting our tax return in the mail. (As a high school teacher, I am looking forward to the end of the school year!) But I’m not sure how many of us really look forward to the resurrection of the dead, i.e. Judgment Day. This morning, when I thought about what we were saying, I wasn’t not terribly sure, as a remarkably imperfect person, how much I’m looking forward to it . . . For anybody who is honest about who they are, facing a final judgment for all of our thoughts and deeds is and should be existentially frightening.
I think that’s what going to Mass is all about. If a person is really listening and paying attention to the words in the readings, recitations, hymns, and homily, there are plenty of things to think about. When I was younger and avoided all churches, I used to say, “I don’t need to be reminded every week how to act!” In truth, that was exactly what I needed. Actually, what I probably need is a daily reminder!
For today to be both Mother’s Day, which is a secular-cultural reminder of the importance of revering those women who bring us into the world, and Ascension Sunday, which is a sacred-religious reminder both of salvation and of that final day when all life as we know it will cease— it struck me as one of those powerful reminders that, although we haven’t yet had to answer for all of thoughts and deeds – not even to our mothers, who gave us life – we will one day. All of us.