Homily for the Ascension of the Lord - Year C - Lk. 24:46-53


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Jesus said to his disciples, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.'


"Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God."





Homily:


"Jesus said to his disciples, 'Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high.'


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 2001, 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 2001, 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 2001. 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. Do we not see, here and there, that certain Christian communities decrease in membership, or even disappear altogether? Or rather, is it still possible to find entire nations or countries which profess faith in Christ and in the Church?


All of this is something that the Lord seems to have announced when he said: "When the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Lk. 18:8) Now, far from being pessimistic and seeing only darkness, he who knows the true meaning of this feast of the Ascension of the Lord into Heaven is filled with hope and boldness! For, if Jesus ascended into Heaven, he did so precisely in order to send, with the Father, the promised Holy Spirit: "And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you." At the price of the departure of Jesus, the Holy Spirit was sent to us, for it is he, and he alone, who vivifies the Body of the Church, makes it grow, and even resurrects it!


"Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God."


For the disciples of the Lord who were present on that day, the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven was seen by them as an authentic manifestation of the divinity of Christ: "They worshipped him." It is as if, when he disappeared from their view, Jesus appeared to them in an even more sublime and marvelous way! This would be truly paradoxical, if one did not take into account what we have just said: namely, that the personal Body of Jesus disappears from view in order that his Mystical Body might appear to us, thanks to the sending of the promised Holy Spirit!


Moreover, why would the disciples of the Lord have been filled with joy after the departure of their Master if they did not understand, by the grace of God, that this departure was already a return, and what is more, an even more magnificent return? For, let us not forget: though they are two distinct Persons of the Most Holy Trinity - on the one hand, the Son become Man in Jesus, and on the other, the Holy Spirit - they are very similar to each other in their relationship with mankind. Indeed, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are two Paracletes, or Comforters, Christ being the first, and the Holy Spirit being the second, or "another Paraclete" (Jn. 14:16).


When Jesus leaves, he is already returning! The Angels had hinted at this when they spoke of the return of the Lord at the end of time (cf. Acts 1:11). Is it not this wonder which, on this day, delights the heart of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus, who was present at the departure of her Son into Heaven? How could that heart, so full of love, have endured such a separation, which lasted for several years? Mary is the Wife of the Holy Spirit, and this mystical companion did not leave the Mother of Jesus in such solitude. On the contrary, the day of the Ascension of Jesus brought her joy! May this joy be shared by us today!



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