Sunday, May 04, 2008

Sunday word, 04May2008

Ascension (04 May 2008) Ac 1.1-11; Ps 47; Eph 1.17-23; Mt 28. 16-20
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Nearer By Far

The Word of God became flesh when Jesus was born into our history. Heavenly messengers announced his birth. That seems to explain the shepherds’ response to the angels announcement: “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.”/1/ God’s nearness to us could not be any closer, could it? Or could it?

Throughout his time on earth, Jesus lived with great humility, a word that recalls the earth. Webster reminds us that if people are not “high and mighty,” then they are down to earth and near its people. Jesus’ modest means, his compassion, his dependence on others’ goodness and his remarkable silence before his accusers make Christlike humility a virtue. In Jesus, divinity couldn’t have drawn closer. Or could it?

By dying Jesus rose to his life unlimited by time and space. Risen Jesus appeared to his disciples in doubt, disbelief and paralyzing dismay before much, much joy. Surely Easter was a reunion: of God and humanity, of Jesus and his disciples! God could not have drawn closer; or could God have?

A silly question, someone may wonder. No, a most important question; indeed a crucial one. It’s crucial because anyone who wasn’t present at the birth of Jesus or intersected with his life or was not at his death or didn’t see him risen from the dead could not enjoy that divine closeness. That leaves out all of us and countless others.

Could these be reasons why the disciples stood there looking at the sky as Jesus disappeared from them: that they would no longer enjoy his company; that they reasoned no one else would enjoy it, either?

Perhaps at the moment they felt that way. However, trusting Jesus they went to Jerusalem to “stay in the city until they were clothed with power from on high.”/2/ His promise was his Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit was no ordinary clothing but power to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Holy Spirit is power to learn him, power to teach him; power to baptize and make others part of Jesus, part of his body, part of the church, which is his body.

By departing, ascending, by being taken from his disciples’ sight and ours, Jesus makes himself our home. By departing, ascending, by being taken from his disciples’ sight and ours, Jesus makes himself our life. By departing, ascending, by being removed from our sight Jesus is closer to us than he was while on earth. By Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent from his Father, God is nearer to us than we are to ourselves. So near to us is Jesus that our testimony to him in deed and word continues to make him present. Jesus’ Spirit, God’s power, makes us agents of God’s reign, which continues to dawn in human history.

Being agents of the God’s reign expresses Jesus’ solemn promise to his disciples before his ascension: Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father. Making Jesus known and making others part of Jesus, part of his body, the church are among the greater works.

We abide in Jesus, our home on earth, through prayer and the sacraments, most frequently the Sacrament of his Body and Blood. We Catholics bring people into Jesus, into the church. We rejoice over our Neophytes, baptized and confirmed at the Easter Vigil.

You inspire us; you remind us of our purpose and of our responsibility/4/ to be loving ministers of Christian initiation, and to make disciples of all nations With you Jesus sends us to be his witnesses, to make him more clearly known and felt. Each mass commissions us to go forth in his name empowered by Holy Spirit to transform our world, beginning with ourselves. We are leaven of the world. Christian daily living works the world like hands kneading dough so that its leaven will spread throughout it. The disciples at the ascension remind us to keep working, to keep transforming our world by our greatest and graced means we have, his Holy Spirit.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week begin in the presence of the Trinity, who creates you with your gifts and your purpose. Ask the disciples to present you to Jesus so that you may converse with him. Praise Jesus for empowering you with his Spirit to make him better known by your daily living. Speak with Jesus about how you follow him and how you can be his his better witness. Close by saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. It unites us with the heart of Jesus and makes us more powerful leaven to transform our world.
/1/ Luke 2.15.
/2/ Luke 24.49.
/3/ John 14.12.
/4/ Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults, 9.
Wiki-images of Garofalo's Ascension and of Christ in majesty are in the public domain.

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