Thursday, June 14, 2018 at 5:37 PM
HONOR ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST-Saturday, June 23rd at 6:30 around the front circle for the Blessing of the Fire

05/25/17 Ascension - Fr. Reggie

We don't think enough about the Ascension.  In fact, only those who pray the Rosary seem to think about it at all.

Yet, it is a crucial part of Christ's mission and message. It is the culminating moment, the finale, the final whistle, the moment in which his victory will be enshrined in heaven for ever. Jesus ascends into heaven as the living sacrifice that will continue to be the bridge between God and humanity until the end of time.

His words at this moment, therefore, are critical.

And what does he say? Two things.

First, he sums up the message of salvation. He reminds his Apostles that he had come to earth to preach salvation, and then to make it into a reality by his suffering, death, and resurrection. Only because of Christ's preaching and passion is it possible for mankind to experience the salvation from sin and ignorance that they desire, the peace of soul that they yearn for.

Second, he gives his followers a job. He calls upon them to be witness of these things. They will not be able to carry out their witness all by themselves, they will need the Holy Spirit, and so he promises that at Pentecost they will be "clothed with power from on high." But then they are to go to "all the nations" as Christ's witnesses.

So, in the Ascension of our Lord, we come face to face with the core of the entire Gospel: Christ's saving message being transmitted to all people through the witness of the Church. 

But what exactly are we to be witnesses of? 

Jesus tells us right before he ascends into heaven: "that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in his name."

If Christ had not ascended, we would not be able to preach that. His Ascension finishes the job of reconciling fallen humanity to God, because it brings our human nature back into a right relationship with God. It guarantees that Christ's sacrifice on the cross was completely accepted by the Father.

Reconciling fallen humanity with God has always been the main problem that religion tries to solve. In the Old Testament, the Israelites achieved this right relationship through what was called the sacrifice of atonement (at-one-ment: the sacrifice that made sinners, once again, one with God). This sacrifice took place in the Holy of Holies, the innermost chamber of Moses' tent of worship and, later, of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Holy of Holies was separated from the inner altar of incense by a huge, thick, ancient curtain. Only the High Priest could pass through the curtain, and even he could only enter once a year, on the Day of Atonement. That ancient ritual foreshadowed Christ's Ascension. In his Ascension, Christ was taken up into the realeternal Holy of Holies, the inner chamber of the universe, heaven itself. But instead of coming back out, he stays there, in his human nature, as our representative, as the everlasting bridge of reconciliation between mankind and God. Through faith in Christ, we have no more doubts that our sins can be forgiven; we don't have to wait for the Day of Atonement; we can live constantly in a right relationship with God.

This is what we are witnesses of. 

This is the message we have received: every human heart's deepest longing can finally be fulfilled, because Christ's sacrifice has been accepted by the Father

This is our mission in life: to bear witness to Christ.

This will give us a share in the joy that the disciples experienced after Christ ascended: "They... returned to Jerusalem with great joy."

But we cannot be effective witnesses to Christ unless we stay close to Christ. We need his own divine strength to fulfill this divine mission.

Therefore, Jesus tells us, in the First Reading, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you..." Christ is true man and true God. To be his witnesses we must share not only his human nature, but also his divine nature. That was one of the main reasons he ascended into heaven. As today's Preface (II) for the Eucharistic Prayer puts it: "he... was taken up to heaven in their sight to claim for us a share in his divine life".

Today, as the Church reminds us of our mission and encourages us to take it up with renewed enthusiasm, let's renew our commitment to stay close to Christ: Let's renew our commitment to daily, heartfelt prayer. Let's renew our commitment to never stop studying the treasure of our Catholic faith. Let's renew our commitment to make frequent and sincere use of the great sacraments that Jesus died to give us, especially the Eucharist and Confession.

On Ascension Day, Christ is sending us out into today's world to be his witnesses, just as he sent out his Apostles two thousand years ago. 

Success in that mission is the only thing that will satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.

And all we have to do in order to be as successful as his first Apostles is to stay as close as possible to our Lord.

 

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