Ascenstion of the Lord, Year B

Sunday, May 13, 2018
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 

Ascension of the Lord / B

May 12-13, 2018
St. Thomas Aquinas, Ames, Iowa
Fr. Jon Seda
Over twenty years ago when we were first planning for our renovation and expansion, I remember having conversations with Marcita Mauck, who was our liturgical consultant and was excellent.  She did not always agree with my ideas, which is good because i now see that she was right.  But one conversation I remember most is one about our gathering space.  Gathering spaces make a big difference in how people interact with each other.  I have seen this here, at SS Peter and Paul, and other parishes I've served.  My question for her was that this space is 50% for gathering, but the other 50% is for sending.  It should reflect not only what we do at the beginning of Mass when we gather, but also what we do at the conclusion of Mass when we are sent.  She never thought of that, the bishops' document on church buildings does not mention that, and I have never seen it done well.
I don't even know what a sending space would look like.  The closest thing I can think of is at a Lutheran church here in Ames  When you drive out of their parking lot, there is a sign that says: "You are now entering mission territory."  I like that. Compare that to our parking lot, which has signs about getting your car towed!
Today we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord, and hear the conclusion of the Gospel of Mark which gives us his final words:  "Go!  Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature."  The final words of anyone are important, and what we remember most.  Jesus final word to us is go.  I once heard that go is 2/3 of God's name . . . G-O.
While this is not reflected in our architecture, it is in our parish mission statement.  You know the three words:  Gathered.  Transformed.  Sent.  We do the first two so we can do the third one.  And that is the one that many Catholic parishes miss.
This is how we conclude each Mass.  We do not just leave, but are sent.  The word Mass comes from the final words of the priest in the Latin Mass, which have the meaning of both being dismissed and being sent.  I think it is great that at St. .Thomas Aquinas, almost no one leaves right after communion.  If they did, they miss out on an essential reason why we gather here=to be sent out.
I have hope we are recovering this part of being a disciple of Jesus.  This past Tuesday I was at the Des Moines Man Up event in Ankeny.  There was a room full of committed Catholic men, young and old, and quite a few Iowa State alums.  I was part of a panel of people from Iowa State, Drake, and Dowling high school, and the topic was evangelization on campus.  Two of our students joined me, and I was really proud of them.  They articulated our mission better than I did.
What struck me most about the evening is that this is not a conversation we were having twenty years ago.  Twenty years ago our conversations were more about apologetics than evangeliztion.  I think the Holy Spirit has moved us, and has moved me, to shift.  I hear at least the beginnings of these conversations about being sent out in our parish, and around our archdiocese.  Sure, we have a long way to go, but at least today being sent out is on our radar screen.  
So today at the end of Mass, don't just leave.  Consider yourself sent.  Imagine our gathering space also as our sending space.  We all know people in our lives who are looking and longing for something more.  They are looking for God.  Jesus asks you to proclaim the Gospel to them in your own unique way.  Jesus' last word to us before he ascending into heaven is go.  And go is 2/3 of God's name.