CACINA

Homily May 17, 2015 Feast of the Ascension

Posted in Called, Christianity, homily, religion, scripture, Spirit, Word by Fr Joe R on May 15, 2015

ascension3ascension“Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking up into the sky?“ Imagine, Jesus’ disciples have just gone through a very rough time having seen Jesus taken away, crucified and resurrected back to life. Their whole internal being has been set on edge and they have slowly recovered when Jesus is taken up into the clouds and is gone. With all his appearances, he prepared them for the Holy Spirit and enjoined them to remain in Jerusalem until he came. At the same time he charged them to go out to the whole world and witness to him. For three years he prepared them to go out and witness to him. But imagine, go to the whole world. In that time the world was perceived as being relatively small. How far would the average person go in that time when the means of travel was basically on foot or on the back of some animal. Convert the whole world, preach to every person, imagine how impossible that would sound. Even today, has the word and witness to Jesus, got out and reached all the ends of the earth. Obviously then Jesus work is not yet done and even today we are called to witness to him in every way possible reaching out, being Christ like, and making him present through our own life. Very few people are gifted to be great orator or preachers or stand out as a special witness inspired by the Spirit and Christ’s presence.
In actuality, witness to Jesus is a slow and tedious process of living our life and letting Christ’s presence be seen in the way we conduct our selves and share our faith and the love of Christ and his Spirit. In community in our churches Christ is present and acts among us, but the non-believers, the ones needing to be informed and witnessed to are out beyond the walls in the so called highways and byways. The Spirit moves as he wants, but our witness is what we do and how we act, how we love and witness Christ’s name. I think we can really witness to one person at a time reaching out to others one by one. How well we witness that way will hopefully bring Christ’s presence and the action of his spirit. So Christ calls us to act, to witness, to let our presence bring forth his presence and hopefully bing others to believe. Jesus will return, but we are forewarned not to be idle .

Fr Tony’s Homily at Holy Trinity for the Ascension June 1, 2014

Homily June 1, 2014 Ascension

ascensionToday we celebrate what we might call the second part of Christ’s Resurrection. Jesus is alive and has been seen by his disciples and others, but as we all know in our world nothing is forever. His earthly time was ending. Jesus came that all sin might be forgiven by his being born and living as you and me and die. After dying, Jesus came back rising from the dead to show that what he had done was definite and sure for the salvation of all. However, his work would be complete only when he was once again united to his Father and had sent His Spirit to provide for us from now on. So we see in today’s readings that he is taken up to the heavens physically for his disciples to see. But he made it clear that it was not an end but a beginning. He commissioned his disciples to wait for the coming of the Spirit and then to go out to all the world to tell them the good news. It was time to preach Christ and the good news of salvation.axcension2

As believers, we know the struggles of the early church and that in fact much work remains to spread the work of the gospel. In fact, even believers and people who call themselves Christian sometimes fall short of what Christ has called us to do. But still each of us can do his work by breathing in that Spirit he gave us and listening to that deep interior voice which summons us to him. No one respects our freedom and our ability to choose than God himself. It was he after all who gave us those gifts as part of our humanity. That choice unfortunately is what ultimately led to sin entering the world and the salvation by Christ. Yet, still in each of us. inspired by his Spirit, an inner voice remains. God chooses not to overwhelm us but to prompt us, to awaken us to him and what it is we can do to be with him and lead others to him. That voice, that call is something we can choose to hear or keep pushing it into the background. As surely as God was with us when Jesus was alive, he is even more present today, both in the Eucharist, and in the Spirit who dwells in each of us.

This presence calls on us to make Godly choices as we go about our days. God is with us in our lives not in spectacular ways but in ways that keep us on course and an even keel. Our prayers are answered in ways that do bring ultimate peace in our lives. It is helped by how we work with others and how we in small ways bring Christ into the lives of those we meet. None of us, I don’t think ascension3will ever be the traveling missionary preaching far off or to great numbers of non-believers, but surely consider the number of people you meet each week and ask yourself,”Do I bring Jesus to them by being myself, a believer, a follower of Jesus?” In a country claiming to be religious in one way or another, do we embody Christ’s actions and compassion and openness? Do we share his presence with others? We should always remember that every encounter is important and never forget that the Spirit does work through us if only we let him out by our actions and love.

Homily for the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, Year A 2014

Homily for the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, Year A  2014

The Feast of the Ascension is one of the five major feasts of the Church year. It occurs in two Gospels and, more fully, in the Acts of the Apostles that we read today. Comments about its celebration exist from the 4th Century.  However, It has always presented some theological problems for me. I used to wonder, even as a child, that if bodies were taken up to heaven, as we profess that Jesus’ was and Mary’s was, certainly, then heaven must be a place. Yet, I was being taught that heaven was a state of being. So how could a body exist there? Did it need to eat and drink? Heavy questions for a child!

As I grew older, this became even more of a problem as I learned that the Biblical and medieval view of the three-tiered universe obviously didn’t exist as described. To me, it remains a mystery, one that I haven’t been able to figure out, but it is part of our Creed, so the most I can do is look for clues in the Gospels and Acts which help me understand its meaning for us today.

The Ascension joins together the work Jesus did on earth and his work as exalted high priest in heaven. Redemption has happened and Christ returns to the Father and we have been redeemed. The Gospel of John particularly uses the imagery of the lifting up on the cross and Jesus being lifted up to heavenly glory after sending the Spirit to remain with us. John has Jesus tell us that he is going away to prepare a place for us, and that it is good that he does – for if he goes away, he can send the Spirit to us. As we know he does this 10 days later on the feast we celebrate next Sunday – Pentecost.

The bookend readings of Acts and Matthew today are both important. The Acts we read today is the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. Luke tells that he is writing to a person, Theophilus, though it may not be a person since that name Theophilus means ‘lover of God’, and it could be a word that describes any new Christian.  The first book he mentions is his Gospel, the Gospel of Luke, and Luke says he wrote that to tell the reader all that Jesus did from his birth to his ascension, and what instructions he had given to his disciples to carry on. Luke tells us that he wanted the Apostles to remain in Jerusalem where they would be baptized by the Holy Spirit. 

The Apostles, despite everything that happened, still did not understand that the Messiah was not going to be a political leader who would restore Israel to self-government. When Jesus spoke of the ‘kingdom’, that was still the kingdom they were thinking he must have meant. It had been ingrained in Jewish thought that the Messiah, the Savior, would be the conquerer, so the Apostles ask Jesus if this is the time that he will restore the kingdom to Israel. Note, however, that Jesus doesn’t correct them, and in fact implies that Israel will become free again, by simply saying that the Father has all that in control and nobody knows when it will happen. The implication is that it will happen because that is one of the truths of the Old Testament, part of the original covenant God made with Israel and we know God keeps his end of the bargain.

But Jesus adds to that that the Spirit will give them a new power and through that power they would be able to witness him to the ends of the earth. Matthew’s Gospel today expands on this very theme. The 11 apostles go up to a mountain that Jesus has asked them to climb, and there he appeared to them. Most knelt and worshipped him but some were still doubtful apparently. Jesus tells them – his last words, and the last words of the Gospel of Matthew – “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 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.”  So the first part of this final speech of Jesus in Matthew is really saying the same thing as Luke in Acts. The disciples were to go out and witness – that is teach what Jesus had taught and commanded us to do.

The very last line of Matthew deserves special attention though, and the second reason why we are to be joyful about Jesus leaving us – “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” How can Jesus both leave us and be with us? 

One way, of course, is in the Eucharist – that special gift that he gave us. This is our Catholic belief in the real presence of Jesus in the bread and wine. But there are other ways he is present as well. The Constitution on the Liturgy in Vatican II puts it succinctly and beautifully: 

“Christ is always present to His Church, especially in liturgical actions. He is present in the Sacrifice of the Mass in the person of the priest; ‘He is the same one, now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered Himself on the Cross [citing the Council of Trent].’ But He is most greatly present under the Eucharistic species. He is present by His power in the Sacraments, so that when anyone baptizes, Christ Himself baptizes. He is present in His word, for He speaks when the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church. He is present, finally, when the Church prays and sings the Psalms, He who promised ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst'”(Matthew 18:20)

At this point Jesus was lifted up – this could be metaphorical or Biblical reference (note our Psalm today – “God has gone up with a shout”) – but more important, a cloud took him out of their sight. In other words he disappeared into a cloud. The disciples gaze up perhaps to see where he went, perhaps to worship, when angels tell them to stop staring, get to work and that Jesus will come back again someday in the same cloudy way.

The story has meaning despite whether we can understand its mystery or not. We know that Christ is always with us, will return someday the same way he left, will send and now has sent the Spirit to us so that God and He can be within us, and that he will give us power to follow his word and teach others to do the same. That is our Christian hope, our Christian faith, and our Christian joy! As St. Paul puts it today: “[God] seated him at his right hand in heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion” and we, the Church, are now his physical body – he resides in us as well.

When we leave the walls of this church this Sunday, we need to recognize that we carry Christ within us, and that we are witnesses, signs, to all the world of that twofold Christian command to love God and love each other. How do we achieve that, how do we integrate that into our daily lives, how do we become Christ for others in our daily journey to the kingdom? 

That is the Good News that challenges each and every day of our lives, and that I leave you to ponder today and all this week.

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 of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 – “Teaching the Church Year”]

Tagged with: ,