Ascension of the Lord (Fr. Francis)
Today’s readings describe the Ascension of the Lord Jesus into his Heavenly glory after promising his disciples the Holy Spirit as their source of Heavenly power and commanding them to bear witness to him by their lives and preaching throughout the world. But the ascended Jesus is still with us through his indwelling Holy Spirit as he has promised, “I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” Today’s feast is a celebration of Jesus’ final glorification after his suffering, death, and Resurrection – a glory in which we also hope to share.
Entering the temple of heavenly glory, the Lord Jesus continues to bear the marks of his passion, but now his wounds are trophies of victory. Every wound and every suffering is now radiant in the splendor of the Kingdom. Sin and death have been conquered by the blood of his cross, and now the Lord Jesus returns to the Father. He goes to prepare a place for us. And though he has returned to the glory of the Father, he has promised to remain with us always. The Lord Jesus has promised to be present to us until the end of the world.
With the ascension of the Lord Jesus, the power and presence of Christ’s earthly ministry passes into the sacraments. The promise of the Lord Jesus to remain with his disciples always is fulfilled through his presence in the sacraments of the Church. What that means, dear brothers and sisters, is that in every sacramental celebration, we are offered a personal encounter with the Risen Lord. Like Saint Paul on the road to Damascus, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and like Mary Magdalene at the tomb, each of us is offered an encounter with the Risen Lord. Our encounter with the Risen Lord is no less real than the encounter of those who walked with him in Jerusalem. The way that we experience the encounter is different, but the One whom we encounter is the same. We meet the Lord Jesus in the sacraments, and the Lord Jesus meets us in the sacraments of his Church.
Though each of the sacraments is celebrated in the context of a public liturgical celebration, each of us receives the sacraments individually. These moments of grace, where God in his love and mercy has promised to act in a particular way, are personal. One by one we were baptized and one by one we were confirmed. One by one we are absolved in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and one by one we receive the holy anointing. One by one we receive the precious body and blood of the Lord in Holy Communion. The promise of the Lord Jesus, which is offered to all of us, is received by each of us.
And the promise of the Lord Jesus which is offered to us in the Sacraments prepares us for eternal life. We receive the very life of God as a gift of God in each sacrament. The life of God dwelling within us during our life on earth prepares us to dwell forever in the life of God in heaven.
The Lord Jesus Christ has gone to prepare a place for us, and through his sacraments, the Lord Jesus prepares us for his place. Jesus had ascended into Heaven; does this 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 other; that life has dignity, meaning and we too have dignity; that death is the only way towards eternal life.
That is 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.
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 crazy? 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.”
Fr. A. Francis HGN