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The Ascension, Pietro Perugino, 1510

When I graduated from college in 1979 with a Bachelor’s degree in Civil Engineering, my first job was working for a large contractor in central Missouri.  Their specialty was earthwork, including building large earthen dams, municipal water and sewer systems, roads, etc.  They used various types of large earthmoving equipment, and many of the projects involved drilling and blasting rock.  All of this was new to me and I was fascinated by the equipment, the men who operated them, and how their movement seemed almost to be choreographed.

My boss, Ralph, was one of the owners of the company.  He was a big man, kind and generous, with a good sense of humor.  He treated me like his son.  But, Ralph wouldn’t hesitate to speak his mind.  He was a mover, he never stood still.  He walked fast and drove faster.  And if you didn’t keep up he’d let you know it.  More than once he caught me standing idle watching the equipment work and he’d yell, “Hey, don’t just stand there, do something!  You’re wasting time!”  It didn’t take long for me to learn to keep on task and pay attention to my own work. 

Ralph passed away about five years ago, I guess.  I think about him from time to time.  I thought about him this last Sunday as I meditated on the day’s Scripture passages.  

Most dioceses celebrated the Solemnity of the Ascension on Sunday, although the actual forty days after Easter fell last Thursday.  During those forty days, Jesus revealed Himself several times to His disciples.  The first of those was in Galilee where the disciples were told to meet Him (Mt 28:7-10).   In this first encounter, Jesus commissioned the Eleven to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. (Mt 28:19-20)

In another encounter, the disciples were instructed to return to Jerusalem and stay there until they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5).  Then, while in Jerusalem, Jesus returned His final time and told the disciples that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  Then, before the disciples’ eyes, Jesus was taken up into heaven.

Scripture tells us that the disciples were looking intently up at the sky.  I imagine they were filled with awe and wonder, dumbstruck over what they were witnessing.  Just then, two angels came, stood beside them, and interrupted their fascination with what they had just seen.  One of them asked, why are you standing there looking at the sky? (Acts 1:10-11).  

I’m sure the rest of what the angels said was left unrecorded but went something like this:  “Didn’t Jesus just tell you that you would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, and throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth?  Aren’t you supposed to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them?  Then why are you standing there gawking? You have work to do!  Don’t just stand there, do something!  You’re wasting time!”

I think that angel’s name was Ralph.  And, back at my job today as Director of Evangelization for our parish, I sensed this larger than life angel named Ralph sitting on my shoulder, shouting in my ear with a sense of urgency, “You have people to teach and disciples to make!  Don’t just stand there, do something! You’re wasting time!”

“Come Holy Spirit, help me to discern Your will each and every day in my mission to teach and make disciples.  Help me to overlook the superfluous distractions that keep me from growing Your Kingdom.  And, Lord, I pray for more of Your faithful to accept the same Great Commission.  Amen.”

(Don’t Just Stand There, Do Something! was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

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