Homily: The Ascension of the Lord, Cycle B
Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13; Mark 16:15-20
My homily at the 10:00 Mass today at Holy Ghost Church.
Today is the Feast of the Ascension, the day we recall that Jesus was taken up to Heaven 40 days after the resurrection and was seated at the right hand of the Father.
Our first reading tells us that Jesus had to return to the Father so he could send us the Holy Spirit, the 3rd person of the Holy Trinity, God Himself. Jesus’ promise that he would send this Advocate, the Paraclete, so that we would have the power we need to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.
By ascending into Heaven, Jesus is not abandoning us, but rather he is promising to remain with us in even greater power and presence through the sending of the Holy Spirit, God himself, who will dwell within our very souls. The dwelling of the Holy Spirit in our souls is certainly cause for great rejoicing, further demonstrating God’s love for us, but it brings with it great responsibility.
Jesus expects us to receive the power of the Holy Spirit to live fruitful lives as we prepare ourselves and the whole world for his second coming. Both the second reading and the gospel remind us that we ALL have a vocation to be a missionary. We must each witness to our faith though the holiness of our lives, by sharing our faith with others, and by living our lives for others, in community, rather than living them exclusively for ourselves.
Christianity is not a personal religion. It is not a religion about “Me and God.” Our Faith is not about what God is doing exclusively for me in some sort of vacuum apart from the greater community. Christianity is a religion of COMMUNITY; one of living as a member of the body of Christ.
It’s about us living as active members of a greater community within which we are to use our God-given talents for the BENEFIT of the community and to BUILD UP the community through our efforts to evangelize. We must use our talents and gifts for the greater good of our Christian community.
We must not remain idle as we wait for the Lord’s return. We must not sit and stare at the sky waiting for him. When he does return, we will each be accountable for the work we did to bring others to him. It is the power of the Holy Spirit that enables us to be missionaries and proclaim the gospel to the whole world.
I know Catholics who think that abiding by the five precepts of the Church is all they need to do. They attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation, they confess their sins at least once a year, they receive Holy Communion at least once (during the Easter season), observe days of prescribed fasting and abstinence, and provide for the material needs of the Church according to their abilities. The thing is, these precepts are just MINIMUM requirements for life as a Catholic.
While it’s commendable that you attend Mass every Sunday, do you bolt out the door afterwards and go missing in action until next Sunday? Do you grumble if the Mass goes longer than an hour?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not judging anyone based on what I personally see in regards to who is and is not at church during the week. I know that many people use their gifts in God’s service in ways that aren’t visible to me. However, I suspect that SOME well-meaning weekly Mass-goers may not fully understand the importance of putting their faith into action throughout the week for the good of the church.
They may not understand that their gifts were given to them to be used to help others. They did not receive these gifts to be used exclusively for their own happiness, to pay their bills, or to get ahead in their careers.
While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to provide well for yourself and your family, or to use your talents for your own happiness, this must be balanced with the understanding that we are all accountable to Jesus for how we have used our unique gifts to help those in need and carry out his work in the world.
EVERY ONE OF US has been given talents to be used for ministry. Ministry is not the exclusive job of the clergy. Each one of us, through our baptism and confirmation is called to KNOW and SHARE our faith with others. We can not know our faith if we do not study it. We can not grow in our faith if we ignore the opportunities God gives us to learn more about it. Sadly, we let so many of these opportunities pass us by. Like our mini-retreat yesterday morning here at the church that was attended by only 14 people. 14 PEOPLE!
So my question for you today is “What are your gifts and how are you using them to evangelize and build up our community, both here at Holy Ghost, in the diocese, and throughout the world? How are you specifically responding to Jesus’ commandment given to us just before he ascended to Heaven?” Do you do more than meet your minimal obligation of attending Mass every Sunday? Do you share your gifts by participating in parish and diocesan functions where you meet others who may need your your insights? Do you share your faith with unbelievers or with Protestants who do not participate in the fullness of the Catholic faith? Do you minister to the hungry, the sick, those who despair or are in prison? Do you know and faithfully pray for the needs of others each day?
Let us ask God for a deeper insight into the gifts he has given us and how we can use them in the service of others, rather than hoarding them for ourselves. Let each of us reflect on the coming of the Holy Spirit into our lives and how we might become more involved in doing God’s work within the context of the Christian community as we prepare for the great feast of Pentecost.
Jesus is counting on us to embrace and fulfill our call to ministry by putting our God-given talents to work for him. From his seat next to the Father in Heaven, he’s given us everything we need to do our particular job well through the power and working of the Holy Spirit. Let us not disappoint him by failing to respond to his call.
Let us invite him into our hearts as we pray, Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.