The celebration of the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven is an important feast. It brings with it both promise and hope. These days are thankfully much brighter.
The light that was promised at the end of this pandemic is becoming very real. We are doing well and in a much better place. Very soon, the things we once took for granted will be part of our daily lives again. Ascension is really about home coming. Jesus returns home to heart of God, but by doing so brings us all closer to his divine life.
Homes are in sparse commodity for too many young people often crippled by huge rents and restricted to purchase homes because of their exuberant costs and lack of supply. Homes are key to our basic needs and affordable homes are an essential Christian and indeed Ascension value.
We are celebrating the Ascension of the Lord to Heaven. St Luke tells us that it was 40 days after the Resurrection. In the Bible, 40 usually refers to a time of preparation.
The Risen Lord appeared in various ways to the disciples to help them in the transition from knowing him in human flesh to knowing him as the unseen God through Faith. “Blessed are those who have not seen yet believe.”
After Jesus it would truly be a New Age…a new power, a new mission, and a new hope. Jesus promised: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”
Next week we will celebrate Pentecost; see how the power of the Spirit changed the apostles…from ignorance to belief, from fear to courage, from despondency to joy.
On the Mount of the Ascension, the apostles were told not to be looking up to the skies but to look out to the world as a field of mission. “Go, therefore, make disciple of all the nations. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.”
That mission and promise extends to our time. God is not just up there, but God is with us and in us. As Pope Francis put it, each one of us not only has a mission but each one is a mission to bring God’s love and compassion to others. “I have no hands now but yours.”
The Ascension opens up the doors of Heaven for us. This is beautifully expressed in the Preface for the Feast: “He ascended, not to distance himself from our lowly state but that we, his members, might be confident of following him where he, our Head and Founder, has gone.”
Stephen Hawkins described human life as “chemical scum on an average-sized planet, orbiting around a very average-sized star, in the outer suburb of one of a million galaxies.”
Chemical scum! No, thank you! Give me our beautiful, meaningful, and hope-filled Christian religion any day. Planets and galaxies suggest a big story but religion offers a story even bigger.
With St Paul we pray: “May God enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich graces he has promised the saints will inherit, and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers.”
Our Lord’s final instructions, his Last Will and Testament. Just before leaving them, he reminds them of what he expects of them. Earlier he had sent them out to spread the Kingdom of God.
Those who go in his name, do so with his authority. The authority goes with the mission, so to speak. He now adds this great promise, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Mark says that the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it”.
And Luke emphasises that they will be “clothed with power from on high”, that is, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is very definite about what he has to say. Like any gathering of people, the feelings of his disciples were varied.
But he sends them out to speak and act in his name. Their mission was both easy and hard: easy to understand but hard to carry out. It was to teach others all that he had taught them.
Just as he asked them to follow his way, they were to ask that others should follow that way too.
Has a doctor ever put you on a course of antibiotics. The most basic guidance about antibiotics is to complete the course. Even if the patient starts to feel well after a few days, to discontinue taking the medicine can let their condition grow worse.
Similarly, the message of salvation must continue to be shared until the end of time. With all the changes in the church and in society, neither Jesus nor his message have changed.
His Gospel remains a call to live our lives to the full. You write a new page of the gospel each day, through all that you do and whatever you say. Others read what you write, be it faithful or true. So, what is the gospel according to you?
Jesus is with us always. This can be a real help against loneliness. Being alone is not the same as being lonely. One can feel lonely in a crowded street; or alternatively, like Cicero, never less alone than when alone ( “minus solum, quam cum solus”).
This applies especially to those who believe the promise, “l am with you always.” Talking with him doesn’t even need words. If we are open to His presence in our heart, and treasure it, we can experience fully that “Joy of the Gospel” so warmly described for us by our good Pope Francis.
Dear Lord Jesus Christ, right before your Ascension into Heaven you told your apostles to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth upon receiving the Holy Spirit.
May I be similarly inspired to spread your Gospel message in word and deed, according to your will for me. And may I do so prudently and joyfully, with your help, your guidance, and your grace! And remembering this glorious event, help me to seek what is above, Heaven, where you are seated at the right hand of God the Father!