The Ascension Sunday and the World Communications Day: Call to Missionary Action
For us Disciples of Christ, communication is not mere words. It entails a living experience, giving oneself in love, and is accompanied by “looks, testimonies, experiences, encounters and closeness. In a word, life."
By Dr. George Plathottam
In May we celebrate two events in the life of the church which are closely related- the Ascension Sunday, and the World Communications Day.
In the Ascension we commemorate the Lord’s ascension into heaven forty days after his resurrection- a moment of sadness for his disciples but also the start of a new era which makes them his messengers. It is the moment of realization for them to leave the cozy company of the Lord and to go forth into the world to proclaim the Good News, to live the missionary call with vigour and intensity, to tell the world what they have seen, heard, touched, and experienced.
The church’s mission and that of every Christian is intimately connected with the communication of the Gospel. The instruments of communication help us to live and witness our faith with vitality, to express it in our worship, and to carry it out in the proclamation of the Good News. With the rapid growth of digital communication and social media, we have a wonderful opportunity to share and live the message of Christ with our brothers and sisters across the world and to help them discover our unity in Christ with all people of God.
The disciples saddened by the passion and death of Jesus were overjoyed at the new life of Easter and the many priceless moments with the Risen Lord. Now as the Lord was leaving, he comforted them with the assurance that he would send the Holy Spirit who would empower them to communicate the Gospel. They believed in his promise to be with them till the end of times and to take them to himself.
When the Council Fathers of Vatican II chose to establish the World Communications Day, they designated the Ascension Day as the most suitable day for its observation. They were inspired by the close relationship between the Feast of the Ascension and the function of social communication. Beyond seeing communication simply as media or instruments, they understood its potential and chose the expression ‘social communication’ and gave it a renewed purpose as a means to proclaim the Gospel, build community and foster communion. This conviction comes out clearly as we look through the messages of the Popes since 1967.
In 2021 we celebrate the 55th World Communication Day, and Pope Francis has given us a pertinent theme: “Come and see” (John1.46): Communicating, encountering people as and where they are. For us Disciples of Christ, communication is not mere words. It entails a living experience, giving oneself in love, and is accompanied by “looks, testimonies, experiences, encounters and closeness. In a word, life."
The message accompanying the theme states: "In the epochal change we are experiencing, in a time that obliges us to social distance due to the pandemic, communication can enable the closeness that is necessary to recognize what is essential, and to truly understand the meaning of things. We do not know the truth if we do not experience it, if we do not meet people, if we do not participate in their joys and sorrows. The old saying “God meets you where you are” can be a guide for those engaged in media or communications work in the Church.”
As the Lord Jesus ascended, the disciples were left gazing skywards. They had to be prodded into action by a vision of angels. Once we have encountered Jesus, we too are called to awaken and leave our comfort zones to go out and tell that we have seen the Lord. The Ascension Day is a call to action, to go forth, to proclaim the Good News of Christ. May social communication powered by the Holy Spirit enable us to make haste and get on to the information superhighway to tell the world that “we have seen him, alleluia”.
(Dr. George Plathottam, SDB, Executive Secretary, FABC Social Communications and former Secretary of CBCI Social Communications)
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