Homily for the Feast of the Ascension
It happened 18 years ago, this very day at our cathedral, where God would take me in a total different direction… I was ordained a priest. Years of discernment, praying, decisions: to stay… to leave… studying , living in London, Ontario learning, experiences and processes had led me to this moment. Two days later I presided at my first Mass at St. Alphonsus Parish, my spiritual home for most of my of life. Prior to my ordination, a beautiful resurrected Jesus was added to the cross on the back wall. It is stunning. However, in the pictures from my first mass, all you see are his feet hanging down in the background… it looks as if he is ascending to God. Very appropriate for today… the Ascension of Jesus.
The word “Ascension” means to “rise up… to move upwards.” Those first disciples of Jesus had been on an incredible, and an emotional journey for the past while. For 3 years of their lives, they literally set aside their families, their jobs, everything they ever knew, and followed Jesus wherever He went. They were always with Him. Of course, they knew they wouldn’t see Him again when saw Him arrested and nailed to a cross and die. But then, to their surprise, for the next 40 days after His resurrection, they knew an incredible joy as they were
walking and talking with Him. And now, they’re saying good bye to Him again, as he ascends into heaven. It must have all been a roller coaster of experiences and emotion – sad, heart-breaking, and confusing.
Does any of this sound familiar? I mean, nobody really likes good byes.
They’re never easy. When you love someone, you don’t want them to leave.
We see that in small children all the time. If a friend of theirs, or a parent is leaving them behind, even for a few hours, they’re in tears. It’s as though their whole world is crumbling. As adults, we can still relate to that kind of pain – not to the same degree of course, but we still know that good bye’s can be heart-breaking. After I was ordained, I announced to my family that my first assignment would be in Miramichi… the response: WHAT! WHERE?
But here, Jesus wasn’t saying good bye and abandoning His disciples.
He wasn’t leaving them alone. He promised that they would receive the power of God’s Holy Spirit… Pentecost… that it would be poured out upon them, and everyone who believes in Him – including us. The Spirit would bring Jesus into every moment. And with that promise, Jesus essentially said, “Now you be me, out there.” That was the primary call or mandate of the disciple’s and that’s our call too…to go out in the world and be Christ. We’re to proclaim the good news that Jesus Himself proclaimed. And it’s not through ordination, as great and wonderful as it is… rather it is through our baptism… the greatest things that has ever happened to all of us.
Next week, you will receive the 2020 Holy Spirit Accountability Report. It is amazing, that in these challenging times the work, the ministries that has happened here in this faith community… as you will see. Baptized people, living our discipleship in service to one another. As they watched Jesus rise from them, something shifted in those first disciples. Now they were people of purpose. They had a mission – to be His witnesses to all the world – and so do we.
Again, we do not do this by our own strength. So that’s why next week, we’ll celebrate what the Holy Spirit can do in and through us at Pentecost. We’ll celebrate God’s divine love poured within us, allowing us to embody gospel values. And If we embody the gospel values of Jesus in our day to day living, we become a gospel – a gospel people will want to read.
So just like those first disciples, we too have to engage with our world.
We have to go outward not, not upward… A good friend of mine sent me this story regarding what the Ascension means for us:
“a man who was fed up, and upset with the direction the whole world seemed to be going. And on one particular evening, after watching a rather depressing late news program, he walked outside, shook his fists at the heavens and yelled out, “God, what a lousy rotten world you’ve created. Even I could have done better!” Then a voice boomed from the heavens above, saying, “That’s why I put you there. Now, get to work!”
That really sums up the point of Jesus’ Ascension, and our purpose… to carry out and fulfill the beautiful mission given to us at Baptism… to love God and nieghbour as we love ourselves… to be the presence of Jesus for others. Amen.