Today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension of Our Lord. What is celebrated on this occasion is Jesus’ exaltation and the end of His earthly existence as a prelude to the gift of the Spirit. The Gospel of Matthew begins with the promise of Emmanuel — God is with us; and concludes with the promise of the Risen Christ, “I am with you always, even to the end of time.” The ascended Jesus is still with us because of this promise. He is with us at all times and in all places. Hence, today’s feast is the celebration of Jesus’ glory after His suffering and death — the glory in which we also hope to share.
The Ascension and Pentecost which we will celebrate next Sunday, taken together, mark the beginning of the Catholic Church. The Feast of the Ascension reminds us that the Church must be a community in mission, guided by the Holy Spirit and confident of God’s protection even amid suffering and death. Jesus’ Ascension is both an ending and a beginning. The physical appearances of Jesus are at an end; His revelation of the “Good News” is complete; the promise of the Messiah is fulfilled. Now begins the work of the disciples to teach what they have learned and to share what they have witnessed.
In the first reading, Jesus instructs His disciples to remain in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit, the source of power. Once they received the Spirit they were to bear witness to Him to the ends of the earth by their preaching and lives: “You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit” and become His “witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and to the ends of the earth.” Then He was lifted up into the sky and a cloud covered Him. The disciples received the angelic message that the ascended Jesus would come back again in glory. Thus, the Ascension of Jesus means that the Risen Jesus has entered into the glory of His Heavenly Father.
In the second reading, Paul puts special emphasis on the truth that Jesus, our triumphant Lord, now rules in glory over all creation. He prays: “May God enlighten the eyes of our heart so that we may know the great hope to which we have been called.” In the alternate second reading, Paul exhorts the disciples to live in a manner worthy of their calling and mission. The greatest witness we can bear to the presence of Jesus in our midst is our unity with God, seen in our living with one another in peace and harmony.
The Gospel reading tells us that, with His return to the Father, Jesus has completed His mission on earth. He promised that the Holy Spirit would be the source of Heavenly power for His disciples and commanded them to bear witness to Him by their lives and preaching throughout the world. In the descriptions of Christ after his Resurrection, we are given a hint of what life will be like in Heaven. But it is in Jesus’ Ascension that we see Him entering fully into the life and glory of God. The prospect of sharing that glory should be the driving force of our lives.
The Feast of the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ reminds of our mission: “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” This mission is not given to a select few, but to all believers. It is said that to be a Christian is to be a proclaimer and an evangelizer of the good news. There is a difference between proclaiming and evangelizing. “We preach with words but evangelize with our lives.” Today, we are being commissioned to go forth and evangelize the Gospel of life and love, of hope and peace, by the witness of our lives. On this day of hope, encouragement and commissioning, let us renew our commitment to be true disciples everywhere we go, beginning with our family and our parish, “living in a manner worthy of the call [we] have received.”
I am pleased to bring to your attention that next Saturday, June 3rd, 21 of our children and adults will receive the Sacrament of Confirmation at the 4:30 pm Mass which will be celebrated by Bishop Emeritus Robert Brom. This is an important opportunity for our children to understand the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in their lives and begin leading a life in conformity with the Gospel. Let us remember our confirmands in our prayers.