Easter Sunday7, Ascension C (16 May 2010)
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Joy, Worship and Purpose
Gesu Parish capitalizes on the Solemnity of the Ascension to commission its neophytes, born anew in the pure water of baptism with the threefold name of God, sealed by Holy Spirit and sustained by the eucharist. What I say to you, Angel, Beth and Jim, I say to all because the sacrament of the eucharist sustains the baptism of each person, and because this is not the end of your formation but the commencement of it as fully initiated members of Jesus’ body in the world, the church. First, a word about the Ascension of the Lord.
The Ascension is not a separate event but one with Jesus’ resurrection. Limited by space and time as we are, we appreciate them separately. We separate the strands of the paschal mystery to appreciate better the entire mystery and notice how it is inviting us now. Luke’s use of the phrase, forty days, has less to do with time and more to do with its scriptural sense, God’s revelation. When received, one notices things of great moment and interest. A few examples: a new creation after the forty days Noah and his family were in the ark; Moses was on Mt. Sinai for forty days before receiving the commandments; forty days Elijah tarried on and around Mt. Horeb before he received God’s revelation for his future; and Holy Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness forty days before he began his prophetic ministry. All divine desires more than human ones.
The church never divided Jesus’ ascension from his resurrection. The fact that a diocese may observe this solemnity on Thursday or Sunday emphasizes God’s revelation in Jesus by their Spirit more than human time. God’s revelation fulfills humans, gives shape and purpose to our lives and makes our baptisms our shared vocation to be apostles and witnesses of Jesus’ dying and rising to our world today. I note one feature shared by the first apostles and us as we consider our role as witnesses of Jesus’ dying and rising in which we share: blessing. That this blessing was not an impersonal feature Luke was clear: As [Jesus] blessed them he parted from them. Three things to note: joy; worship and purpose.
Jesus’ blessed parting from the disciples meant Jesus was present with them in a way different from the way he had been. When a child physically lives apart from parents because of school or marriage, say, the parents and child remain related and in a new way. Jesus blessed his disciples, promising to abide with them. They reacted not with grief but with worship, showing the risen Lord esteem, not asking him for anything. Their worship and esteem overflowed with great joy, because Jesus was their joy.
Humans can be distracted from their joys, as we know. Perhaps we share the disciples’ first distraction, namely not having Jesus with us bodily as he was once with them. While we are not told why they stood there looking at the sky, looking at the sky distracted them from their purpose Jesus gave them, not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak.” With that promised presence of Jesus with them and his Spirit’s new energy filling them, not only would they be different—liberated and confident—they would change the world.
Into this Christian joy, worship and purpose you have been initiated, Angel, Beth and Jim. Into this Christian joy, worship and purpose you have joined us. You remind us that your Christian joy, worship and purpose are ours, that they make us different and commission us to change the world by them. While your initiation into the Easter Sacraments has been a moment of overwhelming blessing for you, remember that it has also blessed us by renewing our Christian joy, worship and purpose with you for the sake of our world.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, bask in the living light of our triune God. Ask the disciples to present you to Jesus. Hear Jesus speak to you in his words to them and feel him bless you. Ask Jesus for the grace to allow him to live in and through you. Close, saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus’ words on our lips, Father...hallowed be your name, help us pay homage and esteem to God for who God is before we ask God to supply any need we may have.
Wiki-image of an image of the Ascension is in the public domain,