Solemnity of Ascension

While blessing them, He was carried up to Heaven.

Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today’s celebration of the Feast the “Ascension of the Lord” Jesus.

While reflecting on this Feast that the Holy Catholic Church has found worthy of including in the Liturgical Calendar, I asked myself, “What does the Ascension of Jesus mean to us?” After spiritual reflections, I was able to perceive some important factors that are associated with the Ascension of the Lord Jesus.

1. First of all, the visible departure of the Lord concluded the Risen Jesus’ sojourn on earth. For 40 days after His Resurrection, Jesus had been appearing to many of His followers and spoke to them about the Kingdom of God. [Acts 1:3] The days of His apparitions had come to an end.

If we are to take Chapter 24 of the Gospel of Luke or Chapter 20 of the Gospel of John as they stand, we would get the impression that all three, the Resurrection, the Ascension and the giving of the Holy Spirit happened on the same day. But this is not so. As I have just mentioned, there was “40 days” [Acts 1:3] between the day of the Resurrection and the day of the Ascension. This knowledge is made known to us by St. Luke who also wrote “The Acts of the Apostles.”

2. Secondly, I have come to perceive that the Ascension of Jesus completes our understanding of the awesomeness of the glorious Resurrection. Because the Lord Jesus was raised to Heaven after His glorious Resurrection, it is made known to us that our blessed hope of eternal life does not consist of dwelling in this world, but rather in Heaven.

3. Thirdly, the Ascension of the Lord affirms that Jesus was the Messiah. As the Gospel of Luke tells us, “He was carried up into Heaven.” [Lk. 24:51] The questions to ask here are, “Who carried Him?” and “Why did they carry Him?” It was the angels who carried Jesus to Heaven because they were created to “adore Him” [Heb. 1:6] and serve Him.

In concluding the writing of his Gospel, St. Luke emphasized that the proclaiming of repentance and the forgiveness of sins was to be proclaimed in His Name. [Lk. 24:47] This emphasis, in “His Name,” shifts the faith of the believers from Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, to the divinity of Jesus. “For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell bodily.” [Col. 1:19, 2:9]

4. Next, the Ascension of the Lord Jesus opened the door for the beginning of the Divine ministry of the Holy Spirit. Jesus had told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem but to wait there for the promise of the Heavenly Father. [Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:4]

5. Fifth, during the Gospel Reading, we heard that Jesus raised His hands and blessed His disciples. [Lk. 24:50] This action echoes a similar action that is found in the Book of Sirach in the Old Testament.

“The leader of his brothers and the pride of his people was the high priest, Simon son of Onias…” [Sir. 50:1] “Then Simon came down and raised his hands over the whole congregation of Israelites to pronounce the blessing of the Lord with his lips, and to glory in his name.” [Sir. 50:20]

From this passage, we come to perceive that the blessing of Jesus was not just an ordinary blessing. It was a blessing from the True High Priest, He who is a priest forever, according to the Order of Melchizedek. [Heb. 5:6, 7:17, 7:21]

6. Sixth, from the moment of the Ascension, the living hope of all Christians has been for the Second Coming of Christ, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him. At the moment of the Ascension of the Lord, the countdown began. “About that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” [Mt. 24:36] “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected hour.” [Mt. 24:44]

7. Seventh, once the Lord Jesus had ascended into Heaven, He sat at the right hand of God. [Mk. 16:19; Rom. 8:34; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 8:1, 10:12; 1 Pet. 3:22; Acts 2:33, 7:56-7] Since then, He has been the Mediator between God and humankind. [1 Tim. 2:5] “Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and to that degree He is the Mediator of a better Covenant, which has been enacted through better promises.” [Heb. 8:6]

8. Eight, from the moment of the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven, His glorious reign began as the King of kings. Through the Resurrection of Jesus, death was conquered. “The great dragon was thrown down (out of Heaven), that ancient serpent who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.” [Rev. 12:9]

Following the glorious moment of the Ascension of Jesus, the souls that dwelled in Limbo were finally released “Christ was the first fruits of those who had died.” [1 Cor. 15:20]

In theological usage the name “Limbo” has two meanings. The first is the temporary place or state of the souls of the just who, although purified from sin, were excluded from the beatific vision until Christ’s triumphant ascension into Heaven (the “limbus patrum”).

According to apocryphal Jewish literature that refers to the abode of the departed just, the following condition of the souls is generally agreed upon:

– that their condition is one of happiness,
– that it is temporary, and
– that it is to be replaced by a condition of final and permanent bliss when the Messianic Kingdom is established.

9. Ninth, while Jesus has ascended into Heaven, His Divine Presence continues to be with us where He is adored daily in the Sacred Tabernacles of the Catholic Churches.

The last verse from today’s Gospel Reading states, “And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the Temple blessing God.” [Lk. 24:53] What is stressed here is that the believers were “continually” in the Temple and their “great joy.”

From this passage, it can be perceived that the physical Church mirrors the invisible Kingdom of God. The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church mirrors the new Jerusalem and the new Temple. The Divine Presence of Jesus in the Sacred Tabernacles mirrors His Divine Presence among the saints and the angels in the Kingdom of God.

Why is there great joy? Because the celebration of the Holy Mass and the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist mirror the Heavenly Feast in which Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the saints and all the angels are partaking. To receive Jesus in the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is to “worship God in spirit and truth.” [Jn. 4:24]

My brothers and sisters in Christ, the aforementioned raises the importance of the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord above the fact that the Lord Jesus was carried up to Heaven by the angels. While the Resurrection was the turning point in history regarding salvation, the Ascension was the turning point in history regarding the beginning of the Kingdom of God.

Following the glorious Ascension of the Lord, the endless righteous souls who had died from the days of Adam to the days of Jesus, all were finally released from their prison in Limbo. Finally, they could enjoy the eternal Presence of Christ the King. For these souls, the Resurrection of Jesus prepared the way for their freedom from a dwelling where they did not enjoy the beatific vision of Christ.

These are reasons to celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. There may be more than those that I have mentioned. But these are sufficient for us to rejoice, not only for ourselves, but for the countless souls of the days of the Old Testament who finally entered the Kingdom of God.

Source: Catholic Doors Ministry

Jesus the Good Shepherd

“Without the priestly ministry, there will be no Eucharist. Without the Eucharist there will be no missions and without the missions, there will be no Church”. – Pope Benedict XVI

The TV is my shepherd I shall not want,
It makes me to lie down on the sofa.
It leads me away from the faith,
It destroys my soul.
It leads me to the path of sex and violence for the advertiser’s sake.
Even though I walk in the shadow of Christian responsibilities,
There will be no interruption, for the TV is with me.
Its cable and remote control, they comfort me
It prepares a commercial for me in the midst of my worldliness
And anoints my head with secular humanism and consumerism.
My covetousness runs over;
Surely ignorance and laziness shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of wretchedness watching TV forever.

(I heard this parody on Psalm 23 in a homily broadcast on EWTN on March 18 2002)

What a dreadful way to live, living in a way that leads to death. But there is another way to live:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
Beside restful waters he leads me;
He refreshes my soul.

He guides me in right paths
For his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage. (Ps 23:1-4)

That is a beautiful way to live, a way that leads to life, peace and true happiness. Jesus in the Gospel today tells us that he came precisely so that may live with that life, peace and happiness described in Psalm 23,

I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

As we listen to these words of Jesus in today’s Gospel they take on added meaning because we are in the Easter season. We have celebrated Jesus’ death and resurrection. Jesus had to die to himself to live his new life. Jesus has shown us how to live life to the fullest, we must die to ourselves in order to rise to new life. Our secularized world thinks it has the answer to our needs but what it offers only leads us into deeper despair. As that parody on Psalm 23 states,

It destroys my soul.
It leads me to the path of sex and violence for the advertiser’s sake…
And I shall dwell in the house of wretchedness watching TV forever.

We could apply the following words of Jesus today to the false notions of happiness offered to us by the world today,

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. (John 10:10)

Only dying to ourselves as we follow Jesus will lead us to the happiness we seek. Jesus teaches us that the way to happiness lies not in filling up each of our wants and needs and desires. The way to happiness lies in a very different choice of life; the way to happiness may be found in sacrificing and taking up our cross with Jesus, reproducing the life of Jesus in our own lives. And so Jesus says,

I am the gate. Anyone who enters through me will be safe: he will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture… (John 10:9)

I have come so that they may have life and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

Pope John Paul encouraged people many times to find life to the full by following Jesus as he said words like this, “Do not be afraid to open the doors to Christ…” In Palestine the shepherd brought the sheep into the sheepfold every night. It was a circular stone wall with an opening or door where the sheep entered. Once the sheep were inside for the night the shepherd slept in that opening or door all night. The sheep could not get out without stepping over the shepherd’s body which meant they would not get out at all during the night. Jesus is the gate, anyone who enters through him will be safe, and will go freely in and out and be sure of finding pasture. Others steal and kill and destroy but Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

As we contemplate Jesus the Good Shepherd today Pope John Paul II declared the fourth Sunday of Easter a Day of Prayer for Vocations. We pray that many may listen to the voice of Jesus as he calls, that they may enter the sheepfold through him and be safe and have life and live it to the fullest.

http://www.frtommylane.com/homilies/year_a/easter4.htm