May. 12, 2018

Ascension, 2018


Readings: 1st- Acts 1:1-11; 2nd- Eph. 1:17-23; Gospel- Mk. 16:15-20

The Scriptures present us with the Ascension of Christ into heaven, an event that concludes his resurrection. Christ rises to heaven, forty days after his resurrection. Prior to his death, he says to his disciples, “In a little while the world will no longer see me…” (Jn. 15:19). “In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If there were not, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” (Jn. 14:2). “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be” (Jn.14:3). Again, he says, “You heard me tell you, I am going away and I will come back to you” (Jn. 15:28).

Immediately after his resurrection, Jesus encounters Mary Magdalene as she comes to the grave to anoint his body. Jesus calls her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbouni,’ which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, ‘Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (Jn. 20:16-17). Today, we celebrate the fulfilment of those words, “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”.

Luke records it this way, “And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: And they were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.” (Lk. 24:50-53). The disciples witnessed Jesus’ ascension into glory. They were looking on as Jesus “was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight”. They were startled. Then the angels reminded them of what Jesus had said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing here looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Jesus ascended into his glory as God, where He is seated at the right hand of the Father. As God, he remained also with us as he promised, “I will not leave you orphans”. In responding to the disciples’ question about the times and seasons that the Father has established his authority, Jesus says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8).

Ascension offers us some theological insights as followers of Christ. It reminds us that heaven is real, and not just a concept. Jesus spoke regularly about the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven. He stated before Pilate, “My kingdom does not belong to this world” (Jn. 18:36). He promised us in the beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3). Commentators remind us that “the Ascension embraces the mystery of the moment when Jesus presented our human body in its most perfect state to the Father”. Jesus is the eternal Word of God. He took our human flesh. Now He ascends to heaven and sits at God’s right hand. He opens for us the way to glory and eternity. We will follow him at the end of time.

Ascension also has a missionary impact. Jesus wants us to be witnesses. His Ascension prepares the way for the Holy Spirit as he promised, “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever, the Spirit of truth” (Jn. 14:16-17). As missionaries, Jesus commands us to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” (Mk. 16:15). The Holy Spirit enables us to preach the gospel and to evangelize the world. We evangelize with our lives. We bear witness to the teachings of Christ, to the truth of the gospel. We produce signs of love, mercy, forgiveness, healing, and compassion. We speak great words of compassion to the downtrodden and the lonely. We begin from where we are, then move out to the world… “to the ends of the earth”.

Ascension invites us to a life of commitment to the Christian message that we proclaim. Christ tidied his house before leaving us. He commissioned us to be his witnesses. We are charged with the responsibility of making his message known to those around us. By our commitment to the gospel, we look constantly towards heaven. We live in the hope of eternal life. The pure in heart merit the blessings of heaven.

Interestingly, this weekend, we celebrate Mother’s Day in the United States. Mothers and women in general are strong witnesses to the love of Christ in the entire created universe. Mothers stand out in making God’s love shine out in families and in the society at large.

What do we say to mothers today? God loves you. Your husbands love you. Your children love you. Everyone loves you because you are special. Your roles in the homes are special. We invite you to appreciate that. Do not let anyone make you to lose sight of that special place that God has given you in the family. Do not let stress, pains, disappointments, and challenges make you to lose sight of the wonderful roles you play in the family. Do not let any extreme ideologies of feminism make you to lose sight of the special place you have in the family. The family fulfills its divine mission because of the special role of motherhood. The Blessed Virgin Mary played that role. Christ descended to the earth by his incarnation through his blessed mother. Saint Paul reminds us, “What does “he ascended mean except that he also descended into the lower regions of the earth? The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things” (Eph. 4:9-10). Christ blessed motherhood. He sanctified motherhood. He ennobled motherhood. He gave us mothers as special persons in our lives.

I invite all women here to embrace their roles in the family with the grace of Christ and of our mother Mary. Please be women. Be ladies. Be mothers. Be wives to your husbands. Be ladies to your families. Be mothers to your children. Value that great role and help your families to rise above false attractions and attachments. Be our strength when we are weak. Be our comfort when we feel lonely. Be our hope when we feel dejected. Be our support when we feel weighed down. That is your way and means to ascension. Yes, you can do it through Christ who strengthens you, and who has called you to the special and dignified role of motherhood.
Happy Mother’s Day to you our ladies. May God bless you all. Amen.