CACINA

Homily for the Feast of the Ascension, Year B 2015 (May 14 or 17)

Posted in christian, church events, Eucharist, homily, inspirational, religion by Fr. Ron Stephens on May 10, 2015

Homily for the Feast of the Ascension, Year B 2015 (May 14 or 17)

In a certain way, today is about saying goodbyes. It is not the seemingly permanent goodbye that we experience when someone dies, but more like the ‘goodbye’ that takes place when you move away to a different state or country and you think you might not see that person or persons again for a long time, if ever.

The Apostles had already said their shocked goodbyes in their hearts to Jesus when he died on the cross and was buried. Getting him back again was a miracle of the highest order and we are told many times how joyful it made them. But it was not to be a permanent stay. The resurrected body was not quite the same as Jesus’ body was before, as we have noted. We teach that heaven isn’t a physical place; Jesus was physical, in that he was seen and touched by the followers, but not physical, in that he could go through walls and appear, and even change or cloak his appearances so he was not known. So his return to the Father is not something that we can quite comprehend. The image we use metaphorically is that heaven is up and the world of the unsaved dead is down, and so Jesus was seen to be lifted up and disappeared.

This story is related to us in all three readings today so it is a story which in itself is so miraculous that all the writers comment on it or tell it.

After getting Jesus back, it must have been very saddening to think that they were going to lose him again, and Jesus knew that.  That is why Jesus is full of promises to them, to make sure that they knew it wasn’t abandonment they were facing, but that he would still be with them, but in a different way. We are told that he had been on earth in his resurrected state for forty days – a number that appears many times in the Bible – forty years in the desert the Jews wandered, Moses sent spies to the Promised Land for forty days, Jonah warned that Nineveh would be destroyed in forty days, Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days. Obviously the number forty had some significance metaphorically. Generally it referred to a testing period or a trial period. The Apostles had been fortified by Jesus for forty days to prepare them for his leaving.

During this time Jesus taught them, and prepared them to take over his ministry. He told them that he would send the Holy Spirit to them. Having the Holy Spirit in them meant that they would be able to do the things that Jesus had done because God was in them. Mark says they would be able to cast out demons, speak in tongues, be unhurt by poisons or snakes, and heal the sick. In other words, they would be given special power. Jesus even uses that word when he says: …you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses…”

So these last forty days had been a time of rejoicing because Jesus was with them and a time of preparation for taking over in order to spread the kingdom of God on earth.

Just a few years later, St. Paul was able to observe all that had been happening since the Ascension, and he says it in such a beautiful way. Paul describes what has happened to the disciples since the coming of the Spirit on them, and he begs them to continue being worthy of those gifts – to live in humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with each other in love to maintain that unity of Spirit. He reminds them that they are all one, just like that vine metaphor that Jesus had used, and they must work together to maintain that strength of being in one Lord, one faith, one baptism, in one God. Then Paul talks about all the gifts that the Spirit had brought them. Their purpose, he reminds them, was not for self-glory, but to build up the body of Christ. Paul doesn’t want them to forget that these wonderful gifts have been given so that they may bring everyone to know Christ as mature Christians, unified in the faith.

So the ‘goodbye’ that we celebrate today, though similar to many goodbyes in our lives, is different. It isn’t just through memory that the person we say goodbye to will be with us, but Jesus will be part of us, inside us, inspiring us, helping us, making us stronger. These are such hopeful sentiments that I think we often take for granted or forget. Jesus didn’t go away. he is right here, and right there [the tabernacle], and when we call on him he can’t but help to hear.

Good News! Yes. And good news that we need to shout to the ends of the earth as we celebrate today his final promise to us – the coming of his Spirit which we will celebrate next Sunday.

Bishop Ron Stephens

Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA

The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)

[You can purchase a complete Cycle A and Cycle B of Bishop Ron’s homilies, one for every Sunday and Feast, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

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