What does it mean to ascend? To move upward; to rise through the air; to succeed to (as in ascending a throne). On the day of this posting, we are celebrating the Feast of the Ascension, when Christ ascended into Heaven. After the Resurrection, he was taken up from the sight of the disciples, he even rose through the air. And he ascended his heavenly throne. In celebrating this great Feast Day, I would also like to include two other definitions of the word: to rise up from a lower degree; to go back in time through your family’s genealogical succession. (Don’t worry, this won’t take long. Don’t trust me? Then here’s a quick preview: kindness and mothers.)
Fr. Finnigan shared a bit of a poem during his homily at Mass today – the priest, in his mid-to-late eighties, often reads to us wonderful quotes and clips from theologians, saints, and poets. This particular one he found in a book by Father Frederick William Faber, who lived in England during the 19th century. The writer of the poem itself is anonymous, but it fit beautifully with Fr. Faber’s work, in a book called, Kindness. The poem also fit with Fr. Finnigan’s homily on loving one another – for, isn’t that what kindness is? The words started my mind thinking about the power of love and how it is so powerful that it can be conveyed through the smallest things…
It was only a sunny smile,
And little it cost in the giving;
But it scattered the night
Like morning light,
And made the day worth living…
It was but a kindly word,
A word that was lightly spoken;
Yet not in vain,
For it stilled the pain
Of a heart that was nearly broken…
It was only a helping hand,
And it seemed of little availing;
But its clasp was warm,
And it saved from harm
A brother whose strength was failing…
I can testify to the ascending quality of small acts of kindness – even just a gentle word or a flash of a happy smile. Haven’t we all experienced some little moment of no importance, so little and seemingly unimportant that we cannot even remember the time or place, when loving kindness was conveyed to us? A smile, a word, a briefly helping hand, “it’s touch as tender as angels’ wings,” turned us from our gloomy mood, lifted us up from a troubled place, or inspired us to go on with strength and hope. These little acts of kindness can surely cause us to rise from a lower degree to a higher one.
Did your mother ever do this for you? Mine did, and does, for me. Not only did she physically lift me up (and still does because of my disabled dependency) she also raised me up from sorrow with a hug, lightened my worry with her smile and action, and inspired me to look up with her faithful words. And I know that her mother, too, caused her little girl to rise up in love, peace, and joy with simple little things when she needed them. Mothers help us to ascend.
We are all called to help one another in this way. Truly, we can never know the powerful impact that a kind smile, or word, or touch from us can have upon another. Like the poem said. Like Christ said when he called us to be loving with one another. This is a call to a higher place. Let us all go there together.
Fr. Finnigan concluded his homily with words that St. John, the beloved disciple, was said to have continually repeated in his old age as all that we ever need to know about holiness and God’s will: “Little children, love one another.”
Happy Feast of the Ascension! Happy Mother’s Day!
© 2018 Christina Chase
Although crippled by disease, I am fully alive in love. I write about the profound wonder and terrible beauty of life while living with physical disability and severe dependency. Unafraid to ask life's big questions, I was briefly an atheist and considered other religions before finding, in God's choice to intimately share our humanity, what it truly means to be fully human. A revert to the Catholic Faith, I blog weekly and have written a book called It's Good to Be Here.