Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
May 16, 2021
There is a song that comes in the middle of Act One, and then reappears in Act Two, of the musical Godspel. I love the entire play. What’s not to love? After all ….it’s based on Matthew’s Gospel. But for me, this particular song..that’s sung twice… is very special.
Day by day
Day by day
Oh Dear Lord
Three things I pray
To see thee more clearly
Love thee more dearly
Follow thee more nearly
Day by day….
Over the years…I’ve seen the play a number of times…and I’ve got to tell you…after each performance, I find myself singing that song in the shower…where no one can hear me.
For weeks after seeing the show, I walk around unconsciously humming or whistling the tune.
Once…I bought the CD…and I would play, and then repeat that one song, over and over. These days, I simply say:
Alexa, play “Day by Day” from Godspel.
And she does…over and over and over.
At some point it dawned on me, that it was the lyrics, more than the tune that I was so taken by.
see more clearly,
love more dearly,
follow more nearly…
are another way of saying that I want to be a better Christian. Don’t we all? Isn’t that why you’re reading this reflection?
Surprisingly, it was only just recently, that I learned that those words were not the original work of the composer. The lyrics are actually a prayer credited to St. Richard of Chichester, England; who first prayed these beautiful words during the 13th century.
“O Lord, three things I pray: to see you more clearly, to love you more dearly, to follow you more nearly, day by day.”
It seems to me that this little prayer is especially fitting to the celebration of the Ascension of The Lord.
The Acts of the Apostles reports that:
He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during 40 days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
Human nature being what it is, “day by day” the Apostles and disciples, very likely became more and more accustomed to seeing and listening to The Risen Jesus.
They probably began to feel like things had returned to normal, just as they were before Good Friday. Jesus teaching…preaching …and doing miracles, as they simply watched and listened…little more than an audience to salvation.
But then, The Resurrected Jesus did what He had done before. He lead them up a high mountain…alone…by themselves.
He was lifted up and a cloud took Him from their sight.
Much like Easter morning, when they found the empty tomb, an angel was needed to explain that something unimaginable had happened.
The Ascension message was similar to that of Easter morning:
If you are looking for Jesus…you are looking in the wrong place.
This time however, they were told that
He has returned to where He came from.
And so,“day by day”, as we hear in our Second Reading,
the eyes of their hearts were enlightened.
“Day by day” they began to see more clearly, and they came to understand that Jesus was infinitely more than the carpenter from Galilee, Who had died, but rose.
Slowly, “day by day” they came to believe that they had encountered The Eternal Christ. With that realization, their already great love for the man from Nazareth, deepened…because they now understood that through Jesus, they had encountered God, Who we are called to love with all our heart, and all are soul, and all our mind. We owe it to our Creator to love God deeply…more deeply than anyone or anything else.
NOW….here’s the important thing, having ascended into heaven, Christ kept the promise He made. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon them…and they felt the power increase within and among them…“day by day.”Day by day…They began to “follow more nearly” because the Holy Spirit was within each of them…speaking to and guiding their hearts, souls and minds. No longer observers, but now partners in the work of proclaiming the Kingdom; they set about the work that The Christ commissioned them to do.
They went out into the world proclaiming the Gospel to every creature.
Because of them…the Apostles and disciples…the first Christians, we are here today. But, they passed on more than our faith. They also handed on the great commission Christ entrusted to them.
YOU are called to do what they did: Go out into the world proclaiming the Gospel to every creature.
YOU are as important and necessary as they were. And if YOU fully commit to this privileged work of evangelization…as they did…then…“Day by Day” the rest of the world will begin to SEE MORE CLEARLY, LOVE MORE DEARLY, FOLLOW MORE NEARLY!