Jesus delegates responsibility to us to build kingdom

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily May 17.

My grandfather founded a small meat packing business (Taylor Dressed Beef of Fort Worth) and worked at it very hard for many years.

He had to make many sacrifices in order to succeed, worked long hours, going in to work very early every morning and at considerable financial risk — it was a very competitive environment. But as the business grew and he got older, he began to delegate authority to other employees he could trust, one in particular. And as the business prospered he began to take vacations to Hawaii with my grandmother, giving that employee even more authority.

He has left us all the responsibility of delegated authority, but he still remains the owner.

And by the time she had died and he had retired — eventually moving to Oklahoma — the business for which he had made so many sacrifices passed into the hand of that employee who was now the new owner. He had authority now.

That is sort of what Jesus did on today’s feast of the Ascension. He began to establish the Kingdom of God first by his own hard work during his public ministry and at the same time began to train others, his disciples, to whom he gradually delegated more authority. And when they reached a point where they had sufficient ownership to begin to take over, he delegated to them — and to us — responsibility and authority for continuing the work that he has begun.

And that is exactly what has happened ever since. From one point of view, Jesus left us on the day of his Ascension into heaven — sort of like a businessman who retires and moves to Oklahoma.

In another sense, though, by delegating authority to the Church, he remains a living presence.

In this sense Jesus is very different from a retiree who sells the business and moves away. Such retirees do not remain present to the business they once owned, but Jesus can be. Having ascended to heaven physically, he has left us all the responsibility of delegated authority, but he still remains the owner.

In Matthew’s account we read: “Full authority has been given to me both in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” And then he adds an assurance that no human delegator of authority could give us: “Know that I am with you always, until the end of the world.”

And so we see that Jesus delegates to us, the Church, shared responsibility for continuing to build the Kingdom of God in our own time and he assures us that no matter what challenges we may face in proclaiming and living the Good News, we have Jesus’ continued presence to sustain and guide us.

By his Ascension he may have left us physically, but he remains present to us in the Spirit — which we will receive next Sunday on the great feast of Pentecost — and in our fellow believers, the body of Christ living and active in the world today.

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