Homily for the Feast of the Ascension 2022
This past week we have witnessed the horror of another mass shooting in the USA; war on Ukraine continues to devastate their people; closer to home, we have witnessed the rising price of gas, groceries and housing to name but a few. And over the past two year or more, we have witnessed what it means to be in ‘lock down’… separated from loved ones, those we live with, work with and study with all because of the pandemic.
During this Easter Season, we have witnessed Jesus in our Scripture appearing to his closest friends gathered in fear behind locked doors; he shows up on on a beach and eats a piece of fish with these same friends then disappears; he suddenly shows up again and wishes ‘peace,’ then opens the wounds in his hands and side for Thomas to touch and then vanishes again. Since Easter Sunday we have witnessed Jesus coming and going… appearing and then disappearing. Since May 16, from the Gospel of John, we have been witnessing his ‘going away speech…” both on the weekend but also during the weekday Masses. That has been the Easter journey thus far. A lot of witnessing to strange things happening in our lives and in Scripture. Today’s Gospel is no different. Jesus will disappear into the heavens as his followers bear witness to this important event. Jesus ascends back to God so that the Holy Spirit could come and make home in us. And minutes before his Ascension into the heavens, Jesus tells his followers, “You are witnesses of these things.” Witnessing to what? Perhaps we need to look at the word “witness” and ask, “what does this mean?” Witness or witnessing means “To see and be present or to have knowledge of and event or change from a personal observation or experience… to speak the truth.For Christians, who follow Jesus, witnessing issharing our personal experience of Jesus with others… to speak the truth about God.” And that’s what we do:
- We give witness to Jesus, just as we are doing here now… praying together, as a worshipping community… in gratitude to God for all blessings.
- We given witness to Jesus when we help others especially those lives are wrecked… when they need encouragement, in facing challenges.
- We give witness to Jesus, when we can encourage or strengthen another’s faith; it may give them conviction to witness to their own experience of God.
- When we witness to Jesus, we share in his love, it strengthens us to address those terrible things that are not of Jesus: poverty, greed, gossip, abuse and neglect to our environment.
Thankfully, like you, I have witnessed the goodness of God’s love in so many wonderful people. Those who work so hard, reaching out to others, addressing a need head on… even those who risk their own lives to come to the aid of others: most recently we have witnessed
- those who are helping to support homeless Ukrainians.
- Our support of food banks, Avenue B, and other social needs.
- Each week we witnessed those among us in prayer… no doubt praying for the same things that the rest of us are praying for.
- [Today we are very blessed to witness students from SJHS come and share their gift of voice… helping to make our Mass more prayerful and beautiful.]
Jesus was asking those early followers to be His witnesses. That same invitation is given to us. That is the crux of the Ascension. In the First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles we heard that the followers of Jesus were gazing up at the sky and this voice says to them, ‘why are you looking up at the sky? Almost as if to say, your looking up there, maybe waiting for something to happen up there and the voice almost seems to say, ‘you have a responsibility here. Your voice, your action, your witnessing to the gospel… the voice is saying, look around you… look among yourselves and be people through your own words and actions, your witnessing, bring a sense of peace, bring a sense of mercy, bring a sense of kindness into our world, amid everything and sometimes everything seems overwhelming… everything that is going on out there.
On this Feast of the Ascension and World Communications Day, let us be grateful for the witness provided by those around us and our gift to communicating the Risen Lord to others around us. Amen.