Ascension of the Lord Homily
“That’s enough…!” A famous phrased used by all parents (including my own) when they have had enough or when the kids have had enough. This weekend we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension. This is the last that the disciples will see Jesus in the flesh. He is taken up into heaven before them, but reminds them that he “will be with them to the end of the age.”
In the First Reading, from Acts, the disciples still have a lot of questions such as “when will you restore the Kingdom to Israel? They are still questioning and still doubting (Gospel). And yet Jesus, in his pastoral way assures them that all will be revealed when the Holy Spirit comes upon them: Pentecost.Before we get ahead of ourselves, perhaps we need to look closer at what does the term “Ascension” mean? It is a word that we do not use that much in this day and age. Ascension means to be risen up, just as Jesus was into eternal life with God.Literally, ‘Ascension’ means ‘to ascend, or to rise, to climb up… such as to ascend a mountain or ‘the sun ascends everyday.’ It is the act of rising to an important position or advancing to a higher level, to be promoted in rank and responsibility. But as well spiritually, Ascension can mean taking ourselves to a new level of relationship with God. I believe that commercial, “Step up and Stay home,” reminding us to ‘self-isolate’ at home to help stop the pandemic hold another meaning for us. “Step up…stay home,” are we not being invited to “step up” and into a ‘new level’ of opportunities with our God? “Stay home” is this not an invitation to a time of prayer and reflection? Are we not in ‘Ascension Time’ a time of total transformation of our whole being? This Ascension experience has had an impact on us, our lives spiritually, physically and mentally. Is that not enough right now?
Look at all the small things that we have taken for granted: seeing each other on a regular basis, welcoming family and friends into our homes, outings to the shopping malls with immediate entrance, and of course, hugs. And yet, Ascension experiences continue: look at those of us with limited knowledge regarding social media… grandparents who have learned to skype or face-time or zoom in order to see their families (especially those beautiful grand babies!), those who have shared with me via phone, their own growth in spiritual development through private prayer time. What about the graduates ascending to their next level of education or now prepared for employment? Or the people in the scientific world sharing progress made for a vaccine, countries helping each other? And the experiences are endless. These are all Ascension experiences because in and through them we are aligning ourselves on another level with our God. Therefore Ascension for us is total transformation, preparing our hearts for the coming of the Holy Spirit, our feast day… Pentecost.
And yet, you may be thinking, this is too ‘pie in the sky’ or ‘abstract’ for us. Perhaps in our fears and reservations for what is happening around us in this global pandemic we need to look at the gospel again. Jesus’ closest companions were more than a bit confused. “When they saw Jesus they worshipped him; but some doubted” Isn’t it true that even as we strive to live a life of faith, like the apostles we sometimes doubt and are often left looking heavenward and wondering where Jesus is or where he’s gone?
When in the face of our doubt, we choose to move forward in faith, to ascend and faithfulness, moment by moment, day by day, then faith trumps doubt. Then the dull darkness of doubt nurtures the tender flickering of faith, and lets it shine forth more brightly. Perhaps this is all Jesus desires, this kind of faith- powerful but tiny as a mustard seed. Perhaps this is enough.