Pastor’s Corner for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, Year B, by Fr. Bruce Botha SJ

In Portuguese, the response to “the Lord be with you” is not “and with your spirit,” as it is in the Latin and the English. In Portuguese the response is “he is amongst us.”

He is amongst us. That’s quite a “wow” moment. The liturgy of the Church can teach us such deep and profound theological truths, if only we had ears to hear.


There was once a church that had fallen on hard times. Mass attendance was down. People had stopped giving in the collection. They couldn’t afford to repair the leaky church roof, so the church smelt damp and musty. The parishioners weren’t very nice to one another. They gossiped and spread rumours. It seemed as though everyone wanted to be a leader, but no-one wanted to serve. Young people didn’t come to the church anymore, because they didn’t feel welcome.


The parish priest was at his wits end. He had no idea how to change things and so finally, in desperation, he wrote to the bishop asking for help. The very next day he received a response from the bishop. One couldn’t really call it a letter because the bishop had only written one or two sentences, but it was dynamite!


The parish priest was so excited that he shared the letter with the PPC chairperson who also could not believe her eyes. The PPC chair shared the exciting news with her sodality, but only after making them promise that they would not tell a single soul. I am sure you can guess what happened next.  Slowly word began to spread. Little groups of people would meet after mass and talk with one another, then look over their shoulders at everyone else, and then return to their talking, and their wondering. It was a hot topic of discussion.


Soon things began to change. People were actually nice to each other, and they went out of their way to help. Somewhere along the way a mystery donor had the roof of the church repaired. Instead of judging and criticising each other, people were much kinder and gentler in what they said. The church became a place that people wanted to be at. The youth of the parish started coming back because they felt welcome and at home.


And all this happened because of one small little letter.


“ I have been informed by his holiness, Pope Francis, that Jesus Christ has decided to come to your parish and to live as one of your parishioners for a short time. Please make him welcome”


Jesus is not in some heaven far, far away. We don’t have to travel to Rome, Jerusalem, Mecca or Moria to find him.


He is here, he is amongst us.


Fr. Bruce Botha SJ