When I was young, we played a game in the school yard we called “Tag, Your It!” You know this game. Everybody runs around and tries to get away from the person who is “it”, and if someone tags you, then you have to go and tag someone else. Now, truth be told, I was pretty good at it. I was fast, and I didn’t get tagged too often. And, if I was tagged, I would just chase another person, tag them, and then the game would continue. When I didn’t want to get caught, I just stayed on the periphery watching the game as a spectator.
This notion of being chosen, if only for a little while, is still with us. Like volunteering to be president of the Altar and Rosary Society, or the being chosen Miss America or Miss Illinois for a year, or even owning your own home. Unless you built your home, someone lived there before you did. And someone will live there when you’re gone.
Temporary roles, but they have responsibilities. You still have to show up. You still have a job to do, whether a homeowner, the president of a club, or even as a parent. Someday, your children will be on their own.
In a way, the feast of the Ascension is like that. Jesus is saying to the Apostles, “Tag, you’re it. It’s your turn. You are going to lead the Church here on earth, the Church that will carry on my mission. I know it’s a big job, but don’t worry. I will send the Holy Spirit to help. And remember, this is only temporary. You are only going to be “it” for a while, until I return.”
I often wonder why Jesus had to leave this earth, how much easier it would have been if he had stayed, knowing in his resurrected body he could have taught us forever. But the reality is this: Jesus had to leave this world so that we could carry on His mission. This feast reminds us that we are empowered, not abandoned. We have been chosen — by our faith — to carry on the mission. God’s mission. Despite the obstacles, the rejection, the challenges.
Everything is different now. Our view of the world has to change, because we’ve heard the Word of God, we’ve received the Eucharist, and now we need to do something. The Ascension reminds us not only of Jesus rising to the heavens, but also of our new responsibilities. God knows we are weak, that we have doubts, problems, fears. Yet despite all of that, He gave us stewardship of Christ’s mission.
He must have really trusted us to leave the Church in our hands.
Do we trust in Him, just the same?
One of the most popular shows of all time was the original Star Trek. And the main premise of that show, repeated at the start of every episode, was that this was only a “three year mission”. This was temporary. The crew would eventually make it back to earth. In the meantime, Captain Kirk kept a log, where at the end of each show he recorded what happened. Think about that: someone was going to listen to all those entries. All to be reviewed at the end of the journey.
So, what are we supposed to do on our mission? Whatever you did for the least of these, you did to me. That’s a start. What about your neighbor across the way, the one you had the argument with about the fence? What about that family you are vacationing with? What about that co-worker who just keeps gossiping at work? They are part of your mission.
Feed someone. Donate something. Visit a homeless shelter. Visit someone in the nursing home. Call your mom. Call your dad. Surprise your children with a gift. Surprise your parents with a gift. Like Captain Kirk, what will you record in your log at the end of this year? This week? Today?
By faith, you’ve been given a mission. You’ve been tagged. In Jesus’ name, your “it’.