As you read the Scriptures for today, try to put yourself in the shoes of the Disciples. They have just been through an amazing six to eight weeks that began with the last journey to Jerusalem. On their way Jesus told them again what was going to happen to him. They were amazed and frightened. They had left everything and followed him. Then there was the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, the Passover meal, the betrayal by Judas, the arrest, torture and crucifixion. They were marked men as Galileans. They hid in the ‘upper room’ not knowing what to do or believe. Then the women came and told them they had seen Jesus alive! They did not know what to do. Finally, Jesus came to those who were hiding in the ‘upper room’ where they had had the Passover supper together.
Over the past 40 days, Jesus had appeared to them and ate with them at different times and in different places. He told them not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for the promise of the Father and to be baptized by the Holy Spirit from whom they will receive power and become His witnesses in Jerusalem and throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. (Acts 1: 1-11) They must have felt like they were on an emotional roller coaster.
Then comes the vision: two men in white garments asking why they are standing there looking up at the sky? They told them Jesus has been taken up into heaven and that he will come again in the same way. Back in Jerusalem they prayed constantly for guidance and, I imagine, courage to face the future. They were commissioned to make disciples of all nations and to go the ends of the earth. (Mt. 28:16 – 20) However, they were far from understanding what that meant and what demands it would make on them until they would receive the promised baptism by the Holy Spirit.
Today, we are the witnesses to the promise by the way we live our lives—awesome and frightening at the same time. It is up to each of us to decide what more we can do given our personal potential to bring the love of God to our families and communities and beyond. “Everything is connected," Pope Francis says in Laudato Si', "concern for the environment thus needs to be joined to a sincere love for our fellow human beings and an unwavering commitment to resolving the problems of society.”
When I worked in Asia with ECPAT USA (End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking) as part of an ecumenical group that responded to a call for action on behalf of victims of sexual abuse, I was shocked to learn the extent of the problem and the criminal enterprises that were making millions of dollars at their victims' expense. Education and advocacy on behalf of victims, networking with other like-minded organizations, supporting legislation that protects victims and ensures services they need to re-build their lives, are among the ways individual young women and men have found a new lease on life.
As a result, public awareness has increased, more victims are being rescued, and more buyers and sellers are being charged with crimes. There are many residences and programs dedicated to providing safe havens for women and children coming out of situations of sexual exploitation and providing them healing from physical and psychological abuses. Tech companies are designing tools to help enslaved workers be able to anonymously report on their plight and get help via their cell phones. We need more of these and other programs to meet the demand for services.
We need to shine light on another crisis—climate change. In Laudato Si', Pope Francis quotes Patriarch Bartholomew: “For human beings…to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate…for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life—these are sins.”
Climate change is the most important crisis in human history. Yet some world leaders fail to treat it like a crisis. By working with the Interfaith Coalition on Energy and Ecology to educate our partners and lobbying U.S. policy makers, I believe the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns makes an important contribution to the growing movement for ecological justice.
Ephesians 1:17 says "that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him." May we know the hope that belongs to his call and the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, so that we may be effective witnesses to the promise.