Jesus appeared to the eleven and said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole of creation”. (Mark 16: 15)
One of the very first homilies that I was supposed to preach as a newly ordained priest was the Solemnity of the Ascension. I was to preach at the children’s liturgy. I stopped at the local shopping centre and picked up a dozen helium balloons to use as visual aids with the children in my homily. While driving to the church, the balloons somehow broke loose from one another in the backseat of my car. In my attempt to gather them all together as I drove into the carpark of the church where all the children could see me as they waited on the steps, I ran my car into a metal post. The post stood firm. My car crashed to a stop. My nose was broken by the impact, my car inoperable, and my homily went unpreached. I’m not sure what happened to the balloons.
There is a clear message in all of this besides the need to be a careful, undistracted driver. The message is quite simple. On our journey through life, there are going to be things that will surprise us, block our way, and might even stop us cold in our tracks. When that happens, broken and shaken up, we have to pick up the pieces and start all over again. We cannot give up.
So since that first Ascension homily more than 30 years ago, I have bought balloons numerous times to use, carefully brought them to church, and let them go as part of my homily.