HOMILY – 7TH SUNDAY OF EASTER
“ASCENSION OF THE LORD”
My Brothers and Sisters in the Lord,
Today is the 7th and the last Sunday of Easter Season. The feast of “The Ascension of the Lord” that we celebrate today was actually last Thursday – exactly 40 days after Easter, but because of its importance and for pastoral reasons we are allowed to move it to this Sunday, as we have done today.
As we do every year, forty days after Easter, today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension of the Lord into Heaven. In the year 2017, does this feast of the Lord have a special meaning for us, one that is different from that in previous years? It is easy to reply by saying that the Ascension of Christ, in the year 2017, reminds us to a greater extent that the Lord Jesus will return to earth at the end of time in a manner that is very similar to the way in which he ascended into Heaven. The Angels said this very clearly to the Apostles who looked up towards Heaven after Jesus had entered it: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11) But, looking at this more closely, we discern a more profound meaning to the feast of the Ascension in the year 2017. If we associate the Body of Jesus with his Mystical Body, which is the Church, then the fact that Jesus disappeared from the sight of the Apostles when he went up to Heaven signifies that, with Jesus, it is the Body of the Church which becomes, to some extent, invisible and hidden from our view.
The meaning of the Ascension is found in this phrase: Jesus took his place. After having undergone the humiliation of his passion and death, Jesus took his place at the right-hand of God; he took his place with his eternal Father. But he also entered heaven as our Head. Where upon, in the expression of Leo the Great, the glory of the Head became the hope of the body. For all eternity Christ takes its place as the firstborn among many brethren: our nature is with God in Christ. And as man, the Lord Jesus lives forever to intercede for us with Father. At the same time, from his throne of glory, Jesus sends out to the whole Church a message of hope and a call to holiness.
Because of Christ’s merits, because of his intercession with the Father, we are able to attain justice and holiness of life, in him. The Church may indeed experience difficulties, the Gospel may suffer setbacks, but because Jesus is at the right-hand of the Father the Church will never know defeat. Christ’s victory is ours. The power of the glorified Christ, the beloved Son of the eternal Father, is superabundant, to sustain each of us and all of us in the fidelity of our dedication to God’s Kingdom and in the generosity of our celibacy. The efficacy of Christ’s Ascension touches all us in the concrete reality of our daily lives. Because of this mystery it is the vocation of the whole Church to wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
“The Ascension of the Lord” is a special event in the life of Jesus and an important feast in the Church. How, therefore, do we look at it? What actually is the meaning of Ascension and what is its significance for us today? Ascension is a glorification of Our Lord Jesus Christ and it was an
event expected after his Resurrection. As a matter of fact, the Suffering & Death of Jesus, his Resurrection, his Ascension and Pentecost all form one unit, and they are inseparably linked with one another, each necessarily implying the other.
We do watch games and sports and we often witness that when a team or a player wins, soon after the match is over, the key players of the winning team or the winning player is joyfully lifted up high by their supporters. It was the same with Jesus – Resurrection was his victory over sin & death – and immensely filled with joy, God the Father lifted him up to heaven in His arms – and this we call Ascension. Now that Jesus awaits us in heaven, his Ascension is the hope of our glorification and a guarantee to meet him in heaven.
Moreover, Ascension is a setting stage for Pentecost – for a new heart, a new spirit & a new power of faith, a feast we will be celebrating next Sunday. When the Father took Jesus into heaven, He also made special provisions for his departure: He would send down the Holy Spirit. As the Gospel of Luke says: Jesus promised his disciples that they would be ‘clothed with power from on high.”
To conclude, the feast of “The Ascension of the Lord” is the hope of our glorification and a guarantee to meet our Lord in heaven. It is a reminder of our salvation, a reminder that our true home is in heaven. So, today, we are challenged to look beyond this world to the destiny which we are to share with Christ in heaven. Thus, this world can only be a place of temporary refuge; a world of passage and not a world of permanence. But, myopic as we are, unfortunately, we are sometimes caught by the assumption that this is the only life there is. Moreover, this feast of the Ascension is also a reminder for all of us, not just of what awaits us when we die, but also what we need to do while still on earth alive. Jesus before his Ascension commissioned his disciples, and us too, to be his witnesses and carry out his mission to the ends of the earth till his return. A big task indeed. But before we can proclaim Jesus to others, our first task is to make sure that we make Jesus the Lord of our own hearts. This we can do by prayerfully reflecting on his words and by living according to his teachings and commandments. We have to make time to become more and more like Christ in everything. Then we can proclaim the Good News to others not only through our words and deeds, but also though our lives, so that Jesus will also reign in their hearts and one day we all will be with him in heaven. And this is the Good News of today.
May God Bless you