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Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Ascension of Our Lord 2020

ASCENSION OF OUR LORD                 

 Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28:16-2

All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.  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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. 

All power and authority has been given to Jesus; but He is going away, He is not going to use it Personally in the sight of the world.  The glorious work of making disciples of all nations is to be accomplished by His disciples, His glory is to be theirs, that of His Church, not His own so far as the world will be able to see.

This is in accordance with a consistent practice of Jesus:  after having taken our sins upon Himself, He gives us His Own Spirit to help us confirm and extend His conquest of and dominion over, sin; He makes us adopted children of the Father Who sent Him; yes, He consistently seeks to glorify us and, apparently, let Himself disappear somewhat into the background:

On that day you will ask in My name, and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you.  For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have come to believe that I came from God. (John 16:27)
He does seem to be living-out the words He spoke to His Father (John 17:10):

            All Mine are Yours and Yours are Mine and I am glorified in them.  

Indeed, Jesus even went so far on one occasion to speak of the Spirit and of the Father with respect to us, omitting Himself altogether:

 When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say.  For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19-20)

However, ironically enough, His Personal humility and love for us is the reason why the world hated Jesus and, indeed, still hates Him and His.  It is not because of Jesus Himself -- His human personality and character are universally admired by unbiased students of His life --  no, the world’s great trouble with Jesus, so to speak,  is that He loves us too much: having taken upon Himself the burden of  our humanity, He now wills to share His divinity with us, to make us divine in Himself, that we might thus know and experience something of the transcendental, all-embracing and totally self-giving love, which is Divine LIFE.

Having made mankind in His own likeness, that is, having endowed him with spiritual freedom, God wills to free us from that which could alone destroy our likeness to Himself, namely sin.   He therefore sent His Son-made-flesh, that He might offer us a choice, that He might re-enable us to use our spiritual freedom to reject the Devil’s ‘toffy-apple of sin’ and lovingly choose to acknowledge the goodness, and give thanks for the great beauty, of our original creation.

But then, even more wondrously still, He wants to enable us to deliberately and whole-heartedly embrace the eternal promise and sublime fulfilment of our being which is in Jesus -- perfect Man and perfect God -- Who, having most innocently shared our humanity to the full, even, indeed, to tasting the deepest dregs of its suffering-for-sin, nevertheless, still willed to draw us back to Himself, as members of His Body able  -- by the power of His Spirit -- to share in His divine glory and  become adopted and true children of the heavenly Father.

Now, the gracious and glorious climax of this divine drama takes place in the Ascension of Our Blessed Lord … Alleluia!   And the supreme question now, as we prepare to celebrate His Ascension, is of course, what sort of relationship can we– you and I personally -- have with the Risen and Ascending Jesus?

First of all, notice that the Risen Jesus is glorious in the Spirit, and today He ascends to His Father in the power of the same Spirit Whom He, Jesus, bestows, as He promised, upon us for our salvation!

Secondly, notice the  fact that ‘Jesus is risen’ means that sin -- through which came death upon mankind -- could not hold Jesus dead; it means that Jesus – by rising -- destroyed sin’s power over humankind, and over the humanity of those who will believe in Him, and in the-God-Who-raised-Him.  Such a living relationship with Jesus now means that sin has no power over us who believe, and that we, authentic disciples of Jesus, need not give in to, cannot willingly yield ourselves to, sin again.

Finally, of course, it means that Jesus is ascending longingly to His Father in heaven, and that we who want to be His true disciples can most delightedly embrace those Easter words of St. Paul:

If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.   When Christ your life appears, then you too will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1–4)

Are we able to trust such a Jesus totally with our future, are we willing to love Him in and above our present experience of life on earth -- visibly beautiful indeed, and so satisfying according to men and women of all sorts ostensibly searching for worldly fulfilment, some of whom are already proclaiming themselves to have found in sensual pleasure, personal power and plenty, all the happiness and well-being they need or want?

Here, Saint Paul’s prayer in our second reading is so beautifully appropriate:

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a (S)spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of Him … that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe, in accordance with the exercise of His great might which He worked in Christ.

Dear People of God, there Paul is telling us that the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus is the model and power-centre for our own rising with Him to the Father Who originally called us.    How, is that holy power to be activated in our lives for us?

We cannot, like Magdalen -- clinging to the Jesus of her earthly memories -- be ever seeking and asking of Him earthly blessings and psychological satisfactions in our passage through life; we have now to learn, with her, how to love Jesus aright as our Ascended Lord, for did not Jesus say to her:

Stop holding on to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’ (John 20:17)

Yes, dear People of God, the key to activating the power of Jesus’ Ascension in our own lives is perfectly simple, as unquestioning Mary Magdalen found, namely, obedience to Jesus the Risen Lord and to His Spirit in Mother Church and in our Catholic and Christian conscience!! And that requirement of obedience is the ultimate reason for the world’s hatred of Him: for despite the fact of Jesus’ sovereign love for us and the eternal salvation He offers us, it all -- of its very nature -- involves our obedience; and human, ultimately devilish, pride is at the root of all our spiritual weakness, waywardness, and sinfulness.

Behold I am sending the promise of My Father upon you, stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.   (Luke 24:49)

Let us subsequently trust not in ourselves, for the work of salvation is ever on-going and it calls on us who attend, try to participate in and live-out-to-the-full, Mother Church’s Liturgy, to pray most sincerely for the coming of God’s Gift of His Most Holy Spirit on Mother Church anew that she might receive in yet greater fulness heavenly wisdom and power for the service of Jesus’ Light and Truth against the darkness and deceit threatening the world.

Let us also invoke the Holy Spirit of Jesus into our own hearts, to help each of us learn to better say ‘no’ to ourselves and to all sin; and – in the measure of His unstinting goodness and in accordance with His own good time -- to guide us, lead us, form us for closeness, yes, even intimacy, with Jesus our own Flesh-and-Blood Lord and Saviour, and for love of the heavenly Father Who sent Jesus to us and calls us to Him in the loving bond of His most Holy Spirit.