By Father James E. Shea, C.Ss.R.
Dear Parishioners and Friends:
Good stories deserve to be told again and again…and again. Here is one of them. And, it is recorded to be true – but almost unbelievable – story.
Larry Walters lived in Los Angeles. His lifelong dream was to pilot an airplane. He joined the Air Force hoping to fly the F-16. Unfortunately Larry had poor eyesight. His limited vision disqualified him from becoming a pilot. After he was discharged he would lounge for hours in his back yard, watching the planes take off and land from Los Angeles International Airport. Oh, how he wanted to pilot one of those planes.
One afternoon the thought came to him. There’s another way to pilot an aircraft. Why not tie balloons to a lawn chair I am laying on. Then, I would inflate the balloons with helium and casually rise above the roof tops. When I decide to come back down I will release one balloon at a time.
He shopped around for balloons. He stopped at the Army-Navy surplus store and found Army weather balloons. He bought 45 balloons and several tanks of helium. These balloons were extra heavy. He strapped the balloons to his lawn chair and tethered the chair to the bumper of his jeep. He packed a few sandwiches and a few cans of beer. He took his B-B gun so he could shoot holes into the balloons and release the helium. Then he would return to earth. He put on a parachute. When he was ready for takeoff, his ground-crew friends cut the tether.
Larry laid back in his lawn chair with his sandwiches, beer and B-B gun next to him. Larry figured he would float lazily above the roof tops. But no! When the tether was cut loose, those helium filled balloons bolted skyward. Up, up and away he went.
Larry hung on for dear life. He was rising so rapidly he couldn’t steady his gun to shoot B-Bs into the balloons. The winds carried him into the approach corridor for Los Angeles International Airport. Two commercial pilots radioed the tower about passing a guy in a lawn chair with a gun in his hand. Word quickly spread amongst Airport Officers, The Coast Guard and the Police Officers. Law officers anxiously awaited the arrival of the lawn chair flight. After 45 minutes of drifting with the clouds, Larry shot a few holes in the balloons and slowly descended.
When Larry reached the good Earth the police welcomed him and arrested him. As he was led away in handcuffs, a television reporter asked, “Sir, why’d you do it?” Larry nonchalantly said, “A man can’t just sit around!”
In a blaze of glory, as if the sun was standing still and the moon was shining at the same time, the Lord ascends into heaven. Thursday is the solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. However, the Bishops have moved the celebration of the Ascension to the following Sunday. So, next Sunday we celebrate the Ascension.
The number forty is a key number in the Old Testament. The Catholic Church has incorporated ‘forty days’ into our festive occasions. Since the Ascension of the Lord is such an important feast, and since forty days after Easter falls on a Thursday when many people are unable to attend Mass, the Bishops have agreed to transfer the feast to the following Sunday. Therefore, we have slightly altered the Old Testament numerical schedule by adding three days. Some of us ole timers remember saying “Ascnension Thursday, forty days after Easter Sunday.” It is a bit difficult to say, “Forty-three days after Easter, Ascension Sunday.” But the Lord will forgive us.
And so we are commemorating the 43 days after Jesus Christ rose from the dead. On that day, He gathered his apostles and disciples. He gave them a mission. Go out to all peoples. Teach all peoples. And baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. After he delivered this mission he ascended into heaven.
Since all things are possible with God, we figure that Christ just rose up to heaven like a helium filled balloon. He left the apostles and disciples gazing heavenward. There were two men watching the apostles. One of them said, “Why are you gazing up to the sky?” We could almost hear them say, “Get back to work.”
And imagine that! Those men dressed in white are saying the same to us. ‘Get back to work and bring move people to the Lord.’
We also hear the Lord saying that he will not abandon us as orphans. He will be with us all days. No matter what happens. The Lord will be with us. How comforting that is. And, so we continue the Lord’s work – to love; to forgive; to care for others. For the Lord will always be at our side.
An elderly woman was baby-sitting her three-year-old grandson. One day she decided to take him to the beach. The child began building sand castles while grandma dozed off.
Just as she awoke, a huge wave splashed onto the shore and dragged the child out to sea. Grandma was devastated. Immediately she fell to her knees, stretched her hands skyward and prayed, “Oh God, if You save my grandson, I promise I’ll make it up to You. I’ll join the Woman’s Sodality at church. I’ll bake for the bake-sale. I’ll cook for the festival. I’ll volunteer at the hospital. I’ll give to the poor. I’ll do whatever You ask of me.”
Suddenly, a huge wave rolled onto the beach and tossed the child at the feet of his grandmother. He was breathing. What a relief? Her grandson was alive!! There was even color in his cheeks.
Then she noticed something missing. She put her hands on her hips, looked skyward, and shouted, “He had a hat, You know!” Perhaps at the Ascension the apostles looked skyward and shouted, “Bring Him back!!” Yes, He is back, He is with us each day. He has not forgotten us.
Fr. Jim Shea, C.Ss.R.