ASCENSION OF THE LORD – Jesus becomes Lord of creation

INTRODUCTION AND common

Today, the feast of Christ’s ascension, we celebrate the crowning of his Easter victory over sin and death. It is a joyous day, a day to look upwards at where Christ, our Brother, sits in glory a the right hand of the Father.

Our destiny is to share in the glory of Christ. We often forget this and pursue goals that are not really worthy of our calling. [Pause]

Let us confess our sins to God, asking his help to rise above them. I confess to almighty God ….

1st Reading: Acts 1:1-11

Jesus prepares his friends for the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

2nd Reading: Ephesians 1:17-23

God has exalted Jesus above every created being. We are privileged to belong to his body, the church

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Gospel: Matthew 28:16-20

Before leaving this world, Jesus gives his disciples a world-wide mission

Jesus came and said to them,
“All authority 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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

HOMILY

I think it is important to stress that Jesus has not left us and gone to live on some other planet or whatever. The ascension is not really about Jesus going away but about Jesus becoming the Lord.

Even though he was the manager of the local branch of the company, no one ever called him anything but Joe. Though he was the boss, he never put on airs. He was always around, not however in a spying capacity, but as a friend – to give advice, to sort out a problem, or simply to give a hand if needed. He had an office where you could arrange to meet him if you so wished, but he didn’t spend much time in it. He was accessible practically in any place and at any time. He drank his cup of tea wherever he happened to be at the break.

He knew all his workers by their first names. He even knew about their families. If a child was sick, or a man’s wife, he got to know about it, and would quietly arrange for a man to get off work early. He wasn’t afraid to be seen to go for a drink with the workers. His house was right in the middle of the scheme, and his kids played with theirs. Of course, from time to time, there were a few who took advantage of him. But for the most part he was not only respected by his workers, but loved by them.

The branch did well. The company bosses took notice, and Joe was promoted to regional manager. Now he was in charge of several factories and thousands of workers. But his whole relationship with the workers changed. He moved away from the area and lived ‘somewhere in the city’. The Joe who had been so close to his workers now spent most of his time in an office high up on a skyscraper. His tea was brought in to him, and he sipped it while dictating letters to his secretary.

The workers rarely saw him, much less got the chance to talk to him. Most of his talking was done over the phone. He travelled around a lot, but mostly only to attend meetings, and always in a company car. Figures on a page, not people, took up most of his time now. During his brief visits to a factory he would meet hundreds of workers without knowing a single one of them by name. And to them he was not Joe, their boss and fellow worker, but ‘some big shot from head office’ who had come to check up on them.

The workers who had known Joe didn’t like this one bit. Nor indeed did Joe himself. But he had accepted the job and now was trapped by the system. In time he would probably get used to it.

We may be inclined to see the ascension of Jesus in this light. The familiar Jesus who ate and drank with his disciples and with sinners has left us and gone back to heaven. During the years of his public ministry he was so accessible. The apostles experienced his love and care every day. And though in many ways he was utterly superior to them, in other ways he was just like one of themselves. But the ascension ended all this. Jesus is away up there in heaven, far from the world we know.

There is of course some truth in this. There is an element of leave-taking in today’s liturgy. Jesus is no longer physically present to his disciples. But he is present. The Gospel of the Mass ends with Jesus’ promise to remain with his disciples right to the very end of time.

The ascension must be seen, not so much in terms of Jesus leaving as of Jesus becoming the Lord. Just as a victorious racing driver is crowned with a laurel wreath, so Jesus was crowned with glory by his heavenly Father after his victory over evil, sin, and death. The Father has glorified his Son, making him Lord of all creation. This is the essential meaning of the ascension.

Jesus then hasn’t left us. He has simply taken on a new role, assumed a new position. He who made himself our Brother, has now become our Lord and Advocate with the Father. Unlike Joe, who as a result of his promotion was almost completely cut off from his old work-mates, for those who have faith, Jesus is closer to them than ever and in a better position to help them.

The first Christians understood this very well. They knew that Jesus was still with them, even if not in the same way as before. They believed he still shared their lives, and that death would mean being united with him in glory for ever. In the meantime he was relying on them (and now on us) to make his presence felt in the world, and to make sure that the Gospel was preached.

‘Victory that is gained after a whole life of work and effort is better than one gained sooner’. (Van Gogh)

‘One Man (Christ) was true to what is in you and in me”. (Emerson)

PRAYER OF THE FAITHFUL

With joy in our hearts at the victory of Christ, our Leader and Friend, let us pray to him who now sits at the right hand of the Father in glory. R. Lord, intercede for us with the Father.

For the followers of Christ: that amid all the attractions of this world they may keep their hearts fixed on the things of heaven where Christ reigns in glory. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.

For the leaders of our country that they may realise that in Christ they have an unfailing guide and friend. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.

For all those who are striving to live Christian lives: that they may be strengthened by the Holy Spirit. [Pause] We pray to the Lord.

That by the power of his ascension Christ may deliver us from all evil, and help us to live our faith joyfully and generously. [Pause]

We pray to the Lord.

For local needs.

Let us pray:

Through your ascension, Lord, you have preceded us in glory. Grant that by sharing your sufferings on earth, we may one day share your glory in heaven where you live and reign forever and ever.

COMMUNION REFLECTION

‘Go, preach the Gospel to all nations.’

This was the farewell command of Christ.

He has no body now on earth but ours.

He has no hands but ours

to raise up the fallen.

He has no feet but Ours

to seek out the lost.

He has no eyes but ours

to see the silent tears of the suffering.

He has no cars but ours

to listen to the lonely.

He has no tongue but ours

to speak a word of comfort to the sad.

He has no heart but ours to love the unloved.

Christ often picks the little unknown people

to do his greatest work.