Ascension of the Lord (Fr. Francis)
The story is told about a priest who, talking about heaven in his homily, said: “We bring nothing with us when we die. There is no money in heaven! People in heaven have no money!”
The whole congregation was quiet, till a little girl whispered to her mother loud enough for all to hear: “Mama, mama, we’re in heaven already!”
Today we are celebrating the Feast of Jesus’ Ascension. What is the real meaning of the Lord’s Ascension? If we are going to ask Mr. Webster, he said: “Ascension is the act of moving upward of Jesus Christ into heaven.”
Similarly, it is like this story of a Russian cosmonaut who made a space travel. Some years ago, flushed from a successful flight to outer space, one Russian cosmonaut sarcastically remarked: “We’ve gone up to heaven, but we did not find God there.” This poor Russian cosmonaut was speaking merely on the level of physical and material. Jesus ascension means not so much a ‘space travel’ as implied by the Russian cosmonaut but that Christ entered a new dimension, an unseen but definitive presence which is the spiritual or immaterial. This signifies His exaltation as universal sovereign Lord of heaven after a fruitful life on earth.
But according to the Church, Ascension is: He ended His bodily presence on earth.” This happened after 40 days of his resurrection. Another meaning is: “The Lord has left and gone up into heaven, yet remains with us.” This means that our life has to end just like that of the physical body of Christ who died. We too must die. If Christ had ascended into heaven, we too must be there. If everything has an end, so whatever goodness we can do, do it now and do not delay. What you can today do not leave it for tomorrow. Another meaning of ascension which I like most also is that, ascension is to go back to the source of, who is the Father. Jesus returned to God the Father, the Source.
What is really the reason why Jesus ascended into heaven? Why not help us in this world to carry out the mission? The reasons are: in order to praise God (Jn 17), in order to become our Savior and Prince of peace (Acts 5:31), to lead us and open the gate for us (Heb 6:20) and to prepare our place in heaven (Jn 14:2). Jesus had ascended into Heaven; this does mean that He is no longer with us? What do you think? Jesus is still with us today. It is because he said that whatever you do to the least of my brothers/sisters, you do this to me.” He said also towards the end of St. Matthew’s gospel: “I am with you until the end of the world.”
So, what is the command of Jesus for us today?
The first is we should preach. What are those things that we should preach to others? The good news of salvation that we are loved by God even if we are sinners; that we are brothers and sisters to each others; that life has dignity, meaning and we too have dignity; that death is the only way towards eternal life.
That’s why all of us are called in order to preach and to teach. Busy people are not exempted from this mission. They just make as an escape goat that they are busy but the truth is they are just lazy to preach the good news. They are afraid to tell the truth and they are already self-sufficient. Preaching is not only to be done within the church, but also in the office, in the workplace, in homes and many more.
Just like this story of Ruddell Norris. He was a conscientious young man. But he was also a shy young man. He found it hard just to talk to people, much less to discuss religion with them.
Then one day he got an idea. Ruddell did a lot of reading and he was aware of the many pamphlets about the Catholic faith. So he decided to set aside a part of his weekly allowance. So he decided to set aside a part of his weekly allowance to buy pamphlets.
Ruddell placed his pamphlets in places where he thought people would pick them up and read them. For example, he placed them in waiting rooms and in reception areas.
One day a young woman who was a friend of his family told his parents how she became a convert and how her husband returned to the Church. “It all started with a pamphlet,” she said, “I found it in the hospital waiting room.” You can imagine the boy’s excitement when he learned of the impact just one of his pamphlets had.
If we know how to announce the good news then we know also how to denounce the bad news. What we like most is: we want that the good news about ourselves will be announced while the bad news of others will be denounced. Our own bad news and the good news of others are excluded.
The second is we should heal. We should become a healer not in the way of a doctor. According to Oxford Dictionary, to heal is: “to free from disease or accident, restore to health and to cure.” But there is another meaning: “to restore a person from some evil condition or affliction like sin, grief, despair, unwholesomeness, danger or destruction; to save to purify, cleanse, repair or mend.” All of us are called to become healers, not only as physical healers but also as psychological and spiritual healers, not tomorrow but today. I believe that many souls had gone into hell because they postponed doing their good deeds.
Lastly, we should be witnesses not just in words but also most especially in action. As St. Augustine had said: “Believe what you preach. Teach what you believe and live it.”
There was a certain man who wanted that in order for him to be remembered by people, this was what he did. He wrote his name on the sand but the waves of the sea came and washed it away. So, he wrote his name on the tree, but the sap of the tree erased this. He wrote his name on the stone, but a stonecutter came and cut the stone into pieces. So the Lord appeared to him and said: “Are you craze? Why you wrote your name in the sand, in the tree and in the stone? Write your name in the hearts of the people and you will be remembered forever.” That is why, have we already started to write our names in the hearts of many people.
Let us reflect on these words by John McArdle: “I believe that the road to heaven is heaven. Just like the road to hell is hell. I believe heaven starts now for someone who doesn’t understand that, they might imagine that the road to heaven is hell, they think it’s tough; and some other people, worse still, could imagine that the road to hell is heaven, its great fun.”
Happy Mother’s day!
Fr. A. Francis HGN