Homily – Ascension/7th Weekend of Easter

My friends, with this weekend, we have come to the end of the Easter Season, which will be followed by a few special Sundays, Pentecost, the coming of the Spirit of our brother, Jesus, Trinity Sunday, remembering God in his/her glory as Creator, Savior, and Spirit, and Corpus Christi Sunday, wherein we strive to understand, through our imaginations—really, and through our faith, the holy presence of Jesus, our brother, in the form of the simple gifts of bread and wine upon our altars.  Following these three, the Church shifts back to Ordinary Time, which we have come to see, deals with much more than, “the ordinary.” 

   As I have in the past, today then, we will join this final weekend of Easter and the Ascension, being that the themes of each correlate rather well.  So, you saw that the first reading from Acts describes Jesus’ ascension into heaven, a new plane—space of life that we can only imagine.  The 2nd reading and the gospel come from the 7th and final Sunday of Easter, showing us rather well, I think, what was expected of those first disciples and us, going forward. 

   The reading from Acts tells us that [these disciples] “will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes.”  I think so many times we read these stories of the first disciples and hear them rather, matter-a-factly, and don’t let our imaginations run a bit into just what they faced and were perhaps feeling at the beginning of their ministries, carrying on where Jesus was leaving off.

   We see this in their purely, human reaction to Jesus being, “taken from their sight.”  “They were still gazing up into the heavens,” Scripture tells us.  And to this reaction, two, apparently, “heavenly creatures” appear and inquire why, in fact, they are doing this.

   Why indeed, we might echo, but for an entirely different reason than the heavenly visitors.  Here it is important to remember that the sole focus of these disciples’ attention for the past three years, Jesus of Nazareth, for whom they had walked away from families and livelihoods to follow, and whom they had watched die a gruesome death and then, miraculously rise to new life, conquering death, so that we could too, one day, was now being taken from them again!  No doubt there were many unanswered questions for them. 

   Jesus was very conscious that the apostles and disciples were afraid and that was why he promised to send his Spirit to be with them, giving them strength to be, to do, what he had called them to be about in the world, in his footsteps. 

   Jesus knew too from his own, lived human life that the temptation was always there to take the easier route, the way that didn’t cost so dearly.  That is why he prayed so earnestly for them in the gospel selection today from John.  “O God most holy, protect with your name those whom you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.” 

   And friends, I think it is good for us to reflect in this year 2023, that marks our 15th year of existence as a Vatican II parish, that we take our name from this Scripture passage, where Jesus prayed not only for his first disciples, but for all who would follow their lead, that they all, “would be one!” 

   Next Sunday then, we will celebrate Pentecost, the day that marks 50 days since Easter, when Jesus’ Spirit was unleashed in a special way into the world.  It might be good this next week to remember our own special day of confirmation when we first said, our own, personal “yeses” to the indwelling of the Spirit that would give us the strength too, to faithfully carry on the Good News of God’s love in our world.

   Once these first disciples receive the Spirit, we see Peter in the 2nd reading today proclaim, “Happy are you when insulted for the sake of Christ, for then, [you will know] that God’s Spirit, in its glory, has come to rest on you.”  And he goes on, “If you must suffer, let it be because you have been a follower of Christ,” [not because you have done evil things].

   We can hardly hear these words and not realize that truly “following Jesus” will not be easy.  The end of the Easter Season, Jesus physically leaving the earth, and sending his Spirit are truly about more than us, “looking to the heavens” for answers.  Jesus has shown us the way, and for him, it was all about love—and for us it must be the same!  Each of us, my friends, will do this differently, and if, at the end of the day, whatever we choose to do, however we choose to respond to our world, if we can honestly say that our response, was all about doing the most loving thing—we will have walked faithfully in Jesus’ footsteps.  Amen? Amen!