Sunday, May 8, 2016

A Homily for the Ascension from my archives

Even though several years old and some of the references dated, this homily captures the Ascension in light of today's readings:

Homily for Ascension 2010
When will I see you again?
Is this the beginning or is this the end?
When will I see you again?

The words to this popular 1974 song I have heard over and over again but they took on a profound significance about 7 years ago. On a warm summer morning, my wife, daughter and I rose early to help move our son to his new life, his new home and new career in Greensboro North Carolina. It was that moment in our lives of profound pride and satisfaction at the accomplishments and opportunities of our son mixed with a bit of emotion of his going away. On the ride home I wondered, selfishly, is this a beginning or an end?

Many here today know what I am talking about. Loved ones move away to pursue educational or career opportunities; others may follow a spouse to his/her hometown and others, with great pride, have watched loved ones go off to defend us and a grateful nation.

None of these examples really fully capture the Ascension which we celebrate today. But as people of faith, do we understand what Christ did for us by ascending to the Father?

We are given basically two accounts of Jesus ascending to Heaven today; both from St. Luke, who authored both the Acts of the Apostles (our 1st reading) and the Gospel that bears his name. For me, several profound things leap out in that 1st reading. Before He ascends, Jesus again reveals the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit with power. And then He reminds His followers of their new job description: you will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth!

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus instructs his followers to remain in the city and prepare for the Holy Spirit. And as He prepares to ascend, Jesus blessed them. And the Gospel tells us they returned to Jerusalem after Jesus goes to Heaven with great joy.

This is very telling. This Jesus that they spent 3 years with, night and day, the same Jesus who, they believed, was taken from them by His crucifixion, this same Jesus who returned to them in His resurrection is now taken to Heaven and they are full of joy.

Are they starting to get it? Remember, we are still 10 days away from the events of Pentecost, yet they seem to be getting the message.

What is the message? What does all of this mean for you and me? Why did the Resurrected Jesus have to go to Heaven?

Well, remember that song…is it a beginning or is it an end? For the Ascension, it is both.

The faith of those first followers was faith in someone they saw; who looked like them; who took on flesh and blood. This presence ends. And the Jesus they walked with and shared everything seemed to them to be restrained by time and space; just like them, just like us.

But this Ascension is equally a beginning; Jesus ascends to the Father and completes His Paschal Mystery; He fulfills the will of the Father. From now on, in the divine plan of salvation, Christ reigns at the right hand of the Father. And He intercedes with the Father on our behalf; He judges the living and the dead.

By ascending Jesus also gives us yet another model to follow. When our journey in this world has ended, we can follow Jesus to where He is; our journey in this world should prepare us to live with Him in total joy in the world to come.

And we can not forget that as Jesus returns to the Father, He has promised the Holy Spirit. In last weeks Gospel, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will remind us of all that I have taught you. And in today’s readings, Jesus tells us that the power of the Holy Spirit will make us his workers in the field; his ambassadors that will spread His Word to the far corners of the world.

Without His Ascension, we would not have taken on this awesome task. We would not be open to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

How can we participate fully in this mission and how can we be more aware of the Holy Spirit in our life? Week after week, we are reminded of opportunities to serve and spread His word. Today, it may be supporting the CYO benefit dinner. This week, it may be attending the Holy Spirit Novena in Mandeville. This week, it may be praying for our high school and college seniors who are graduating and taking that next great step in their lives. This week, it may be praying two mysteries of the Rosary that place us in the scene of the Ascension and Pentecost. This week, it may finally be the time I sign up for one of the many parish ministries that needs you and I to participate in.

My son remains in North Carolina 7 years later. In just a few weeks, we will return to celebrate his marriage to a young lady he met there. And we return with joy as he has met with great success in his practice and his personal development. And now he is starting his new family.

When will I see you again? Is this the beginning or is this the end?

With Jesus; we can see Him again and again; in this life and the life to come. It is always a new beginning.

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