June 2, 2019: The Ascension of the Lord

Witnesses of Mystery


“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
and you will be my witnesses.”

Acts 1:8

“Keep the doors locked and don’t talk to strangers. If you answer the phone and it’s someone weird, don’t feel bad hanging up. And if you need anything, Mrs. Bailey is at home next door. Oh, there are some things in the freezer to microwave if you get hungry…”

Mom, just leave already…

Getting my mom to feel comfortable leaving me home alone when I was a kid was quite the project. Her goodbye checklist and worst-case-scenario directions took longer to go through than the time she was actually away from the house!

How did the disciples feel when Jesus left them and ascended to the Father? Perhaps some of them were anticipating some sort of checklist or a set of directions. However, as Jesus is about to be taken up into heaven, he simply reminds his followers that they are witnesses of mystery. In other words, they are witnesses of his life, suffering, death, resurrection, and mercy. While on the surface, this fact—obvious to the disciples—does not seem to give them much in the way of direction, it communicates something quite profound. The mission isn’t a checklist of things to do or say. The mission is about mystery.

The saving action of the Paschal Mystery—Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection—is witnessed and received by the disciples; it is an experience. This encounter, in turn, moves the disciples to recognize Jesus as the risen Lord. It is their friendship, their love affair with Christ, that prepares them to receive the Holy Spirit in a new way and go forth as bold witnesses to all the nations as priests, prophets, and kings.

Mystery is rooted in experience and encounter. The more we come to know the Lord and allow him into our hearts, the more we desire to learn and understand and preach. His mystery is inexhaustible. The Church exists not to simply pass on information or a list of things to do but instead exists to pass on an experience with risen Lord that opens hearts to discover, just like the first disciples, the mystery and beauty of Christ, that Jesus is Lord. He lives forevermore. Alleluia!

Rev. Dennis Strach, C.S.C., was ordained a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross in 2016. This summer, Fr. Dennis begins a new assignment as Associate Director of Vocations for the United States Province of Priests & Brothers. He currently ministers in Austin, Texas, at St. Ignatius Martyr Church. You can find out more about him HERE.