A Call To Ministry

Homily for May 13, 2018 (Ascension of the Lord, Mothers’ Day [USA])

Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 4:1-13; Mark 16:15-20

Do you know Dolores Huerta?  By almost any measure she is an extraordinary woman.  The mother of 11 children, she began her career as a teacher.  After she experienced the discrimination and exploitation of many hard-working immigrants, she became a community organizer.  With Cesar Chavez she co-founded the United Farmworkers Union, enabling people to better wages, benefits and working conditions.  She’s received numerous awards, including the Medal of Freedom—the highest civilian honor in the United States.  At age 88, she’s still at work!  She is the subject of an award-winning documentary: Dolores

Long before Barak Obama adopted it as a slogan for his first presidential campaign, Dolores Huerta used the phrase “Si, se puede” to inspire people to fight for their human and civil rights.  She told workers whose dignity had been trampled in the fields and who had become accustomed to oppression:  “You have power….It is in your person.”

But long before Dolores Huerta said that to farmworkers, Jesus gave a similar message to his disciples.  “You have power. It is in your person.  I know, because I promised it.”

Today’s scripture readings feature two different accounts of the Ascension of the Lord, each with a different emphasis.  In our gospel reading, the focus is on the signs of Jesus’ presence, protection and power in his disciples.  Our first reading emphasizes the ways that Jesus prepared his disciples to continue his mission:  he appeared to them, instructed them, and urged them to wait together to receive the Holy Spirit.  Both readings speak of a mission that directs us beyond ourselves and foreshadows the mission and the growth of the church “to the ends of the earth.”

In his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul reminds us that the greatest witness that we can give to the power of Jesus is not in what we say but in what we do:  “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.”  As families and as a church we are called to be living signs of unity:  “one body and one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”  We build and maintain that unity by cultivating virtues of character like humility, gentleness, patience, forbearance and peace.

Our specific vocations are diverse.  Paul mentions apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers.  All of these are positions of service and all of them share a common goal:  “to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry for the building up of the body of Christ.”  When we call one another to ministry—any ministry—we encourage one another just as Dolores Huerta encouraged those farmworkers:  “You have power….It is in your person.”  When too many voices in our world discourage or even bully us, the voice of Jesus within us tells us, “Si, se puede,” Yes we can. +