The Seventh Sunday of Easter + Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
The Golden Jubilee of John O’Keefe’ Ordination at St. Patrick Church in White Lake, Michigan
13 May 2018
It was May 16, 1993 and the Sixth Sunday of Easter. It was the celebration of your 25th ordination anniversary. I was here then too at Saint Pricilla in Livonia, and you were there presiding. We were a lot better looking then and we moved around with a lot more energy, but by the grace of God, the encouragement and support of many friends, plus the skills of a many medical professionals, here we are again. I don’t know about you, John, but I’m not counting on doing this again in 25 years.
We take up the Gospel today as you and I have for 50 years, and it takes us deeper into the Paschal Mystery and a more profound meaning of Easter. The resurrection is the proof. Now we know that Divine Love is more powerful than anything, even death. We know that God’s reign has broken the power of this world’s kingdoms that too often survive on oppression and tyranny, hatred, cruelty, and fear. This Gospel and this day announce once again the exciting news of the Incarnation: heaven and earth have come together. God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus Christ is the meeting of heaven and earth. He is bringing divinity and humanity together, inviting the poor to the table, healing the sick and restoring us all to our intended and original place in God’s heart. In his passion and death which we have recalled for the past six weeks, Christ Jesus brought heaven all the way down – all the way into the darkest places of hatred, suffering, and death itself transforming them. The darkest places and most hopeless conditions are suffused with divine light.
We must not think of the Ascension as though Christ was taken from us, that he has left or gone and now we are on our own. The image the Ascension proposes is that now Christ is reigning over all the earth. Heaven and Earth overlap, intermingle. This is the heart of the great prayer of Jesus, this coming together. Now Christ can be more present to the earth than before when he was confined to a small place on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean. Now he is present to all creation.
The Key question raised by this Gospel is who we serve. 50 years ago, John O’Keefe and a bunch of his friends listened to the music of Bob Dylan and many others. Dylan wrote a song called: “Gotta Serve Somebody”. He goes through all kinds of identities and work with several verses like this: “You may be a state trooper, you might be a young Turk, you may be the head of some big TV network. You may be rich or poor, you may be blind or lame, you may be living in another country under another name. But you’re gonna have to serve somebody. It may be the devil or the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody”. It’s a great song in the Dylan style, and I wish there was time for all the verses, but it touches on the key question in the Ascension: Whom do we serve? Who is the king of our lives? The claim of this day is that Christ is King.
An angel speaks to all disciples of Jesus Christ in Luke’s telling of the Ascension. The message is unmistakable. “Get to work.” Then Paul tells us what this look like in the second reading today. “Building up the Body of Christ.” In doing that we discover what we are as disciples, because the single most important thing any of us can discover in life is our vocation. Discerning our job, our spouse, how to help our kids — the most important thing is what am I? Once we do that, we know our unique and particular way of following the command. This feast is about finding our vocation.
The joyful and remarkable assembly here at St Patrick Church is about a vocation. As much as it might be about John O’Keefe’s vocation and his work for 50 years in Building up the Body of Christ in Europe, in Africa, and in the US. I think it is even more about the whole O’Keefe clan in which his vocation and the vocation of his whole family has been realized for the sake of the Kingdom. It was my privilege in life to know John and Patricia, and an even greater privilege to join you in celebrating their lives when they went before us into the fullness of life. I remember well the pride and joy with which John received in the mail the childhood drawings of little Patricia. He would show them to all of us. It must have been the first clues that there is artistic talent in this clan which Tim has eventually pushed to the limit. Bill, Bob, Tim, Maurine, and Patricia stand up. It is the faith received from your parents that we celebrate today. They must still be very proud. This is a faith passed on for two more generations gathered in this church. It is this faith and the rowdy love of this whole family that kept John O’Keefe going for 50years. What is there to say except, Thank you, and Praise God.