acts 1:1-11; ephesians 1:17-23; luke 24:46-53
the great italian composer giacomo puccini wrote his final opera «turandot» while stricken with cancer. when the cancer worsened, puccini said to his disciples: «if i don’t finish turandot, i want you to finish it for me.» after his death, his disciples studied the score carefully and completed the opera.
in 1926, puccini’s favourite student—auturo toscaninni—directed the world premiere of «turandot» in milan’s la scala opera house. when the opera reached the point at which puccini was forced to put down his pen, toscaninni—with tears running down his face—stopped the music, put down his baton, turned to the audience and cried out: «thus far the master wrote, but he died.» there was silence throughout the opera house.
after a couple of minutes, toscaninni picked up the baton again, smiled through his tears and said: «but the disciples finished his work» (cf. brian cavanaugh, «more sower’s seeds: second planting»).
the story of «turandot» is very similar to the story of christianity! before JESUS could complete his work of establishing the kingdom on earth, he died. but he asked his disciples to continue his work. the solemnity of the ascension reminds us of this task that JESUS entrusted to the apostles and to us.
to complete our master’s opera, we—like puccini’s disciples—must understand the score: the life and ministry of JESUS, as it has been handed down to us through the scriptures. we need to read, understand and reflect on the scriptures.
however, unlike puccini’s disciples, we are called to perform our master’s opera not occasionally, but to live it every day—each in her/his own way—in our families, work places, communities, churches, and society.
again, unlike puccini’s disciples, we cannot say that we have finished his work, but only that we are continuing it as best we can. the master will finish it when he comes again. until that day, «the disciples continue his work»!