Sunday, May 16, 2021

A Homily for the Ascension of the Lord

 If you ever listened to the radio between 1970 and 2004 perhaps you remember Casey Kasem and the musical countdown known as America's Top 40.  No show would end until Kasem spoke these trademark words: "Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars".

In life that advice often is reality.  We may be reaching for the stars, in the form of goals and dreams, but must remain firmly planted in our present moment, in our present reality.  Keep reaching for the stars, yes, but be the best you can be now and do the best you are called to do now!

As people of faith, we are called to reach for Heaven while working for the Kingdom right here, right now.

Today we arrive at the important Feast of the Ascension; a Solemnity.  We remember from Scripture and Tradition that the Ascension occurs 40 days after the Resurrection; some of us may recall when we celebrated the Ascension on a Thursday.  Yet here we are today celebrating the Ascension with not one, but two accounts of the Ascension of Jesus.  St. Luke, in the reading from Acts of the Apostles, tells us that Jesus was lifted up and St. Mark, in his Gospel tells us that Jesus was taken up.  So it's safe to say Jesus went up, all things point up.  But why?

Jesus went up to Heaven because the Ascension of the Lord is the logical next step after the Resurrection.  After perfectly fulfilling the will of the Father by dying for us in the greatest act of love the world will ever witness, then rising from the dead on the 3rd day, Jesus now returns to the Father.  Jesus takes his rightful place at the right hand of the Father, to intercede for us.  Jesus, now in Heaven, pleads for all of us! 

And remember, Jesus, ascended to the right hand of the Father in Heaven has never been closer to us.  Jesus, ascended to Heaven, still comes to us in Word and Sacrament, in our daily activities, in our coming in and our going out.  Jesus, ascended, is really, truly close to us!

Jesus also reminds us of the promise of the Holy Spirit.  For the power of the Holy Spirit to come upon the Apostles at Pentecost, which we celebrate next week, Jesus must take his rightful place in Heaven, next to the Father; God mounts his throne to shouts of joy!

And of course Jesus shows each of us what we too should do.  Heaven must be our destiny.  Like Jesus before us, we should set our sights on Heaven.  We must prepare, in this life, for our eternal citizenship in Heaven.  As we prayed in the opening prayer, where the Head has gone before in glory, the body is called to follow in hope.

Still we are called to work out our salvation here on Earth.  Jesus is reminding us to live fully every day we are given.  He tells his disciples, which means he is also telling us, go out into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.  In the Mass, we know that a Deacon or Priest proclaims the Gospel but all of us are called to proclaim the Gospel daily.  We do this by our witness to our faith, our prayer life and those times when we offer service and charity to one another.  Yes, we are called to serve our brothers and sisters by proclaiming the Gospel; preach the Gospel always and if necessary use words.  By our doing, and our very being, we too preach the Gospel!

In the week ahead, can we recall the Ascension of the Lord and be a witness to someone this week?  Maybe we can share a prayer or a word from Scripture, or perhaps we can do something for someone who can't do for themselves.  This week, we will be preparing for Pentecost, the coming of the Holy Spirit.  We are now at the start of the Novena of the Holy Spirit, the oldest novena of the Church.  Saturday is day two, tomorrow is day three; we can pick up the Novena right now and continue praying the Novena until next Saturday.  The novena can be found on websites like EWTN. 

So if we can reach for the stars with our feet on the ground; we can strive for Heaven, our forever home, now, while we work for Kingdom and proclaim the Gospel, right here, right now!  Keep reaching up!

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