The key word for today’s Mass is JOURNEY……… By journey I don’t mean physical travel. By journey I’m thinking more of a person’s life journey. A person’s moral journey. A person’s spiritual journey.
The first journey I want to look at is the journey taken by Lutz Long. He was a very skilled athlete in Germany in the 1930s and he was one of Adolph Hitler’s favorite athletes. Lutz was a white man and he was a follower of the teachings of Hitler who said that white-skinned people are superior to people with dark skin. Lutz Long was one of Germany’s top athletes for the Berlin Olympics in 1936. Lutz actually broke the world’s record for the long jump in the qualifying trials.
Then Jesse Owens from the United States stepped forward for the qualifying trials. When Hitler saw that Jesse was a black man, he left the stadium in protest. That made Jesse very angry and he began to tremble. He was so upset that he accidently stepped on the take-off board on his first try. So that leap was not measured or recorded.
Then Lutz had a change of heart. He walked over to Jesse and suggested that he make a mark on the ground a few inches short of the takeoff board. Jesse did that and his next jump was a good one and qualified him for the finals. During the next two days Jesse won gold medals in the 100 meter dash and the 200 meter dash. Before and after each event Jesse and Lutz were conversing and becoming friends.
Then it was time for the finals in the long jump. Jesse Owens took first place and Lutz took second place. Lutz held up Jesse’s right arm and shouted, “Jesse, Jesse.” The crowd picked up the chant and chanted, “Jesse, Jesse.” And Hitler stared at the ground and left the stadium as soon as he could. Meanwhile, Lutz had travelled an internal journey. He had move from being a Nazi racist to being someone who could see the goodness in each person. His journey was internal, not visible, but very real, nevertheless.
Moving now to the scriptures for today’s liturgy. When I look at the Bible readings for today’s Mass, I see that everyone seems to be going on a journey. It looks like everyone is on the move. Everyone is going somewhere. Jesus is going up to heaven. The Holy Spirit is coming down from heaven. And the disciples are going forth to proclaim the Gospel. I want to take a closer look at each of those journeys in today’s liturgy.
First of all, and most importantly, Jesus is going up to heaven, ascending to His Father. His work on earth is complete and he is free to go back to His Father. Let’s take a look at the job description that he completed during his time on earth.
Six centuries before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah said, “The word of God will come down from heaven, like rain falling from the sky. Rain gives moisture to the plants and then evaporates from the leaves and returns to the sky. In much the same way, the prophet said, the word of God will come down from heaven, give life to the earth and then it will return to heaven.
In the fullness of time, Jesus, the Word of God, came down heaven and gave life to his people. His people were dying a spiritual death. They were suffocating from their selfishness. Jesus set them free from their cycle of self-centeredness. He taught them how to love others and how to serve others without seeking reward. Jesus was a life-giving person. He gave his people New Life by including them in his school of love. He brought them into his New Covenant, his circle of love. As soon as his life-giving task was complete, Jesus returned to his Father.
The second journey concerns the Holy Spirit. Jesus says that he will send his Holy Spirit to his followers. He knows that they will be sad and despondent after he ascends into heaven. So he promises to send the Holy Spirit to breathe New Life into them. On Pentecost Sunday the Holy Spirit will come down and fill them with energy and bring them back to life. They will respond by going forth to preach the Gospel.
That brings us to the third journey that I was talking about: the disciples go forth to proclaim the Good News.
They go forth to tell people what Jesus has told them: God loves you and God is forgiving your sins. God does not hold your sins against you. You are not living under a cloud of shame any more. You belong to God’s family, and nothing can separate you from God’s love.
Now it’s time for a conclusion: Time to get back to the concept of journey. Let’s travel with Jesus and His Holy Spirit and His disciples as they travel on their journeys. We travel with Jesus in His ascension when we lift up our hearts to the Lord. We travel with the Holy Spirit by bringing the spirit of joy and hospitality to every person that we meet. And we travel with the disciples when we proclaim Joy to the World. We proclaim to the world the Good News that God loves each person.
I will close with two questions: 1. Do you really believe that God loves you? and 2. Do you tell your children and grandchildren and godchildren that God loves them?
Now, repeat those questions because they are so very important…….