Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord Year C ~ May 29, 2022
OUR MISSION CONTINUES
The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord has a twofold meaning: first it’s closing chapter of Our Saviour’s earthly life and secondly, it’s a mission entrusted to us to carry on. I found this very interesting story to share with you as it contains a great message for us. Though Jesus is gone back to his Father but still he puts his arms around to encourage to continue our mission as witnesses to his great message of Love.
Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.”
When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.
Suddenly, the curtains parted, and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy was sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.”
Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon, his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn’t recall what else the great master played – only the classic “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”
That’s the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren’t exactly graceful flowing music. However, with the hand of the Master, our life’s work truly can be beautiful. Next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You can hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.”
Feel His loving arms around you. Know that His strong hands are there helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces. God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called, and He’ll always be there to love and guide you on to great things.
On this seventh Sunday of Easter, we celebrate the solemnity of Ascension. It is an important solemnity that marks the return of Jesus to the Father. Together with the Resurrection, it is a manifestation of the victory of Christ. On one hand this feast brings sadness to his disciples because he is going to leave them physically however on the other hand this feast is a reminder that we are going to rise in glory with him. We read in the Letter to Hebrews: “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs”.
“All peoples clap your hands, cry to God with shouts of joy…God goes up with shouts of joy and the Lord goes up with trumpet blast.”
Ascension is a solemnity that sustains the hope of Christians that one day we shall be where Christ is. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that: “…Jesus Christ the head of the Church precedes us into His Father’s glorious kingdom, so that we the members of his body may live in the hope of one day being with him forever.” (665-667).
In the Creed we say that Jesus “ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father”. Jesus’ earthly life culminated with the Ascension, when he passed from this world to the Father and was raised to sit on his right. What does this event mean? How does it affect our life? What does contemplate Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father mean? What mission does he leave for us? These questions are very important to ask and reflection upon.
St. Augustine reflecting on this feast says “Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth. For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies. Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, must bear.
He showed this when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and when he said: I was hungry, and you gave me food. Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power, and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love. He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven. These words are explained by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head, and we are his body. No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the Son of Man by his union with us, and we by our union with him are the sons of God.
So, the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body. Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace. Thus, no one but Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity cannot be separated from the head”.
In the First Reading the words of the Lord to his disciples “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” it is our obligation to be missionaries and our mission should continue. Church by her nature is missionary. Holy Father Pope Francis invites us to reflect on the First Reading with him “Let us reflect on the three key phrases that synthesize the three foundations of the life and mission of every disciple: “You shall be my witnesses”, “to the ends of the earth” and “you shall receive the power of the Holy Spirit”.
- “You shall be my witnesses” – The call of every Christian to bear witness to Christ This is the central point, the heart of Jesus’ teaching to the disciples, in view of their being sent forth into the world. The disciples are to be witnesses of Jesus, thanks to the grace of the Holy Spirit that they will receive. Wherever they go and in whatever place they find themselves. Christ was the first to be sent, as a “missionary” of the Father (Jn 20:21), and as such, he is the Father’s “faithful witness” (Rev 1:5). In a similar way, every Christian is called to be a missionary and witness to Christ. And the Church, the community of Christ’s disciples, has no other mission than that of bringing the Gospel to the entire world by bearing witness to Christ. To evangelize is the very identity of the Church. Each baptized person is called to mission, in the Church and by the mandate of the Church: consequently, mission is carried out together, not individually, in communion with the ecclesial community, and not on one’s own initiative.
- “To the ends of the earth” – In telling the disciples to be his witnesses, the risen Lord also tells them where they are being sent: “…in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Here we clearly see the universal character of the disciples’ mission. The disciples are sent not to proselytize, but to proclaim; the Christian does not proselytize. The Acts of the Apostles speak of this missionary expansion and provide a striking image of the Church “going forth” in fidelity to her call to bear witness to Christ the Lord and guided by divine providence in the concrete conditions of her life. Persecuted in Jerusalem and then spread throughout Judea and Samaria, the first Christians bore witness to Jesus everywhere. The words “to the ends of the earth” should challenge the disciples of Jesus in every age and impel them to press beyond familiar places in bearing witness to him.
- “You will receive power” from the Holy Spirit – Let us always be strengthened and guided by the Spirit. When the risen Christ commissioned the disciples to be his witnesses, he also promised them the grace needed for this great responsibility: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). According to the account in Acts, it was precisely following the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples that the first act of witnessing to the crucified and risen Christ took place. The Holy Spirit gave them the strength, courage, and wisdom to bear witness to Christ before all. Just as “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3), so no Christian is able to bear full and genuine witness to Christ the Lord without the Spirit’s inspiration and assistance. All Christ’s missionary disciples are called to recognize the essential importance of the Spirit’s work, to dwell in his presence daily and to receive his unfailing strength and guidance.
The Holy Spirit equally reminds us we must commend ourselves to his guidance and counsel. In the second reading, Paul prays asking God to send us the Holy Spirit: “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ give you the Spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you the full knowledge of him.” This must be our prayer and wish every day of our life. We must invite the Holy Spirit to take control of our entire mission. We must invite him to lighten the dark spots of our lives as Paul prays: “May he enlighten the eyes of your minds so that you can see the hope his call holds for you…”
On this Feast Day we must remember that “it is a day in which we direct our gaze to heaven, then back to our mission on earth”. In fact, that is the place where our legacy comes from. In the scripture today we come to know about the instructions given by Jesus before he departed from earth to his Father to be seated on the right hand of him. In the words of Holy Father “This feast contains two elements’, “On one hand, it directs our look to Heaven, where Jesus, glorified, is seated at the right hand of God. On the other, it recalls the beginning of the Church’s mission: why? Because Jesus risen and ascended into Heaven sends His disciples to spread the Gospel throughout the world; therefore, the Ascension exhorts us to raise our gaze to Heaven, to then turn it back immediately to earth, carrying out the tasks that the Risen Lord has entrusted to us.” It’s in fact Baptism that qualifies us and drives us to be missionaries, to proclaim the Gospel. As at the beginning the Risen Christ sent His Apostles with the strength of the Holy Spirit, so today He sends all of us, with the same strength, to put concrete and visible signs of hope; because Jesus gives us hope; He has gone to Heaven and has opened the doors of Heaven and the hope that we will arrive there.”
Holy Father says “While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power, and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love. He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was in heaven even while he was on earth is borne out by his own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven. These words are explained by our oneness with Christ, for he is our head, and we are his body. No one ascended into heaven except Christ because we also are Christ: he is the Son of Man by his union with us, and we by our union with him are the sons of God. So, the Apostle says: Just as the human body, which has many members, is a unity, because all the different members make one body, so is it also with Christ. He too has many members, but one body”.
Jesus’ Ascension into heaven thus constitutes the end of the mission that the Son received from the Father and the beginning of the continuation of this mission on the part of the Church. From this moment, from the moment of the Ascension, in fact, Christ’s presence in the world is mediated by his disciples, by those who believe in him and proclaim him. This mission will last until the end of history and every day will have the assistance of the Risen Lord, who assures: “I am with you always, to the close of the age”.
Our mission must continue to witness his name without any problem. However sometimes we become like this person: once a man whispered, “God, speak to me” And a meadowlark sang. But the man did not hear. So, the man yelled, “God, speak to me” And the thunder rolled across the sky. But the man did not listen. The man looked around and said, “God let me see you.” And a star shined brightly. But the man did not see. And, the man shouted, “God show me a miracle.” And a life was born. But the man did not notice. So, the man cried out in despair, “Touch me God, and let me know you are here.” Whereupon God reached down and touched the man. But the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.
In order to rise in glory, we need to feel the presence of the Lord because Ascension of Our Lord marks the beginning of the fulfilment of Christ’s promise to us.
So, let’s pray that this feast will help us to understand the presence of the Lord into our lives and ask the Lord: “Sent forth your Spirit O Lord and renew the face of the earth.”
Other Sermons In This Series
May 13, 2022
January 28, 2022