“I am with you always; yes, to the end of time”
Truly, Jesus has no other plan than to depend on the efforts of his followers! “I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” Far from having left us on our own when he ascended into heaven, Jesus is even closer to us now. He is always with us and in all places releasing a new energy upon the earth, the energy of the Holy Spirit to preach his Good News of salvation by bearing witness to him. The focus of this feast is the heavenly reign of Christ, not the details of the Ascension itself. The challenge it sets before us is spiritual: Are we faithful to his teaching in our lives, and do we carry its message into our world? We must now be his witnesses “to the ends of the world.” The Feast of the Ascension readings remind us of this fact and focus on Jesus’ exaltation. In the first reading, we stand with the disciples gazing up at the
sky, not knowing what has happened or what it might mean for us. Jesus says to us, “You are sent to be my witnesses.“ (“You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”) In the second reading, Paul explains the theological meaning of Jesus’ exaltation: “May God enlighten the eyes of our hearts so that we may know the great hope to which we have been called.”
Although he has risen and ascended, he is still with us through the grace of the sacraments. He is present in the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion and in the Tabernacle where the Eucharist is reserved for prayer. He is accessible to us now through prayer because He dwells in our souls. Today’s gospel describes the commission given first to the disciples and then to us: “Go into the whole world and
proclaim the Gospel.” In his Ascension, we see Jesus entering fully into the life and glory of God. The prospect of sharing that glory should be the driving force of our lives.
- To be a proclaimer and evangelizer. In today’s gospel, Jesus gives his mission to all the believers: “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. To be a Christian is to be a proclaimer and an evangelizer. There is a difference between preaching and proclaiming. “We preach with words, but we proclaim with our lives.” As we celebrate the Lord’s return to His Father in heaven – His Ascension – we are commissioned to proclaim the Gospel of life and love, of hope and peace, by our witness of our lives. On this day of hope, encouragement, and commissioning, let us renew our commitment to being true disciples everywhere we go, beginning with our family and our parish, “living in a manner worthy of the call [we] have received.”
- To live a life of Christian joy in the presence of the ascended Lord. According to Luke, the disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” Apparently, Jesus’ exaltation and final blessing gave them, as it gives us, the assurance that though absent, he is still present, present even in the pain and sorrow we undergo. That is why St. Augustine assures us, “Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: ‘Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?’ and said, ‘I was hungry, and you gave me food.’ While in heaven, he is also with us; and while on earth, we are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, power, and love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love.”
- Furthermore, after death, ascend or descend? At the end of elementary school, what do you want to do? – I want to do my High School. After your High School, what do you want to do? – I want to
go to college. After college, what do you want to do? – I want to get a job. Then what do you want to do? – I want to make big money. What do you want to do after making money? – I want to
build a big house. After that, what do you intend to do? – I want to get married. What will you do after getting married? – I will have a family. What will you do after having a family? – I will retire.
What do you want to do after you retire? – I want to take a rest. What will you do after taking a rest? – I do not know. Will you die? – Oh yes, I will die too. What will happen after death? I am not sure! But I believe I will ascend to heaven, like Jesus.
Today we celebrate and congratulate the graduates of the eighth-grade class of our academy as they
complete their elementary schooling and move on to High School. Just as the apostles at the Ascension graduated from Jesus’ physical presence and were sent out into the world, our students go forth into the world to proclaim and evangelize God’s love on the journey of their lives.
Love and Peace,