Christ’s Continuous Blessing from the Father’s Right Side, Ascension, May 25, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
May 25, 2017
Acts 1:1-11, Ps 47, Eph 1:17-23, Mt 28:16-20

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today we can look at the three principal things that the Church normally marks on the Ascension, the three chief aspects of this mystery we ponder when we meditate on the second glorious mystery of the Rosary: the reality of heaven and Christ’s ascent there; his great commission to the apostles and the Church to continue his work; and the parting gift, the perpetual blessing he gives us to help us complete that mission and one day join him in heaven with many others, the Holy Spirit.
  • The first reality we celebrate today is heaven. Today we celebrate the day Jesus returned home, to the place from which he came to earth to save us. He returned differently than he left, taking our human nature with him across the threshold of death into life. 43 days before his Ascension, during the Last Supper, Jesus told his closest followers about this connection between his ascension and our assumption. He said, “I am going to the Father, … the one who sent me” (Jn 14:17, 16:5). But he also said, “You have faith in God, have faith also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.” Heaven is the place where Christ has prepared for us so that we might rejoice with him forever. And what’s Jesus doing in heaven? He’s not just awaiting us. He’s interceding for us. That’s what we see in today’s second reading. God the Father “rais[ed] him from the dead and seat[ed] him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion” and “put all things beneath his feet” so that we can have the “eyes of [our] hearts enlightened” and we may “know what is the hope that belongs to [our] call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe.” He’s praying for us so that we may know “the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.”
  • The second reality we mark today is the mission Jesus gives us as he ascends: to be witnesses to him, to his message, to his work. He has all power in heaven, as we see in the Ephesians, but in gives that power to us in the Church to fulfill his mission. He tells us in St. Matthew’s Gospel today, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” He loved us enough and he trusted us so much that he placed his own mission into our hands. And he wants us to go out to help others become his followers, to be set free by his truth, to live in his presence in this world so that we may live with him ascended forever. . As I like to say, Jesus could have stayed on earth until the end of time saving everyone himself, one-by-one, so that our frailties wouldn’t get in the way of this most important mission of all time. But instead he ascended, taking the training wheels off of our discipleship, removing from us any excuse to pass the buck. He wants us to help draw others to the throne of grace in this world and forever. That’s the great commission.
  • The third reality we mark is the help he gives us to complete that mission. He sends us the Holy Spirit. In the valedictory address St. Luke records in today’s first reading, he says, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” And that’s the power that came down upon them on Pentecost, what St. Paul in today’s second reading called the “Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.”  During the Last Supper, Jesus had said something startling, which we pondered earlier this week: “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn 16:7). He was describing the incredible gift of the Holy Spirit’s presence as something even greater than his own presence. I’ve always been moved that, as St. Luke tells us in the Gospel, that Jesus “led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he was blessing them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.” Jesus departed as he was blessing us. Pope Benedict commented once that the Risen Jesus perpetually in heaven is blessing us.
  • Jesus’ act of continual blessing happens here at Mass, as he continues to speak to us and more importantly continues to be with us blessing us from the inside with his own life, allowing us to receive his risen and ascended Body and Blood, which is our participation here on earth in his ascension even now. Jesus pointed to the Ascension when he was describing his continued presence in the Eucharist until the end of time. When his disciples were mumbling in Capernaum about how he could give us his flesh to eat and blood to drink, he said, “Do you take offense at this? Then what if you were to see the Son of man ascending to where he was before?” Living a truly Eucharistic life, entering into Jesus’ consecration in the Mass, is the path of our Ascension. “Amen, amen I say to you, … he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life and I will raise him on the last day,” because “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me and I in him.… He who eats me will live because of me.” Eternal life is knowing Christ Jesus, and we know him in a Biblical way through the consummation of the one-flesh spousal union between Christ the Bridegroom and his Bride the Church here at Mass, effected by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is also the means in which we stoke our desire to see the High Priest who reigns in heaven and bids us approach the throne of grace to receive mercy. This is the means by which we become ever more eschatological signs as we “await the Blessed hope and the [second] coming of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” This is the means in which, united with Christ, we are sent out by him with his blessing at the end of the liturgy, to “go and announce the Gospel of the Lord!,” with the power of the Holy Spirit, that the world so much needs. God has indeed mounted his throne to shouts of joy and wants to transform us by his mercy and the power of the Holy Spirit to become a “blare of trumpets for the Lord!”

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 ACTS 1:1-11

In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days
and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with them,
he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for “the promise of the Father
about which you have heard me speak;
for John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

When they had gathered together they asked him,
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons
that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were looking on,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there 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.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

R. (6) God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
All you peoples, clap your hands,
shout to God with cries of gladness,
for the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
For king of all the earth is God;
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits upon his holy throne.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2 EPH 1:17-23

Brothers and sisters:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might,
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

Alleluia MT 28:19A, 20B

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Go and teach all nations, says the Lord;
I am with you always, until the end of the world.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”