Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Sunday, May 16, 2021
Holy Ghost Church – 5:00 Mass
Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; Ephesians 4:1-13; Mark 16:15-20
Today, we are celebrating the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord. This Feast commemorates the elevation of Christ into Heaven by His own power in the presence of His disciples on the fortieth day after His glorious Resurrection.
When Jesus ascended into Heaven, today’s responsorial psalm proclaims that He mounted “His throne amid shouts of joy; the Lord, amid trumpet blasts”. All the angels and saints were giving Jesus their praise in recognition that He, the Lord of lords and the King of kings, had accomplished God’s perfect plan of salvation.
The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven completed His earthly work of our redemption. Through His numerous appearances to hundreds of witnesses between the Day of His Resurrection and the Day of His Ascension, Jesus appeared to His disciples, presenting Himself alive, risen from the dead, by many convincing proofs that he is, indeed, alive and is the gate through which all must pass to enter our heavenly homeland.
Jesus in his resurrected body explained the Scriptures to His disciples, the scriptures that pointed to him as the Messiah who would save us from our sins. He ate and drank with them. He walked on the Road to Emmaus with them. He allowed them to touch Him to prove that He had a physical body. Yes, a physical, glorified, and resurrected body…an incorruptible body that every person of faith who has been baptized will receive when Christ returns as the judge of all people who have ever lived.
While awaiting the moment of our judgement, St. Paul tells us in today’s Second Reading that we should lead a life worthy of the calling to which we have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the UNITY of the Spirit in the bond of peace. St. Paul reminds us that there is but One Body of Christ and one Spirit of God.
The Body of Christ is the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church that Jesus instituted while he was on earth. We have each been called to participate as members of this Body, in the one hope of our calling, to one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in all. Contrary to the false teachings of many, there is no salvation outside the one Body of Christ. Not all denominations lead their members to Christ and to salvation. Every non-Catholic church or religious organization has its own set of doctrines. But only one Church has the true doctrine, the truth that Jesus taught His followers. Jesus instituted only one Church on earth.
All other Christian and non-Christian denominations have been established by men, not by God. Estimations show there are more than 200 Christian denominations in the U.S. and a staggering 45,000 globally, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity. Christ did not come to establish 45,000 thousand Christian denominations, he came to establish one church, one faith, one baptism. The Church he established is the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church that has its seat in Rome under our spiritual father and Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis.
Today’s spiritual message is found in the Gospel Reading that we heard earlier. When Jesus appeared to the eleven, He said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved: but the one who does not believe will be condemned.”
Unbelievers are condemned not because God wishes to punish those who do not heed his commandments, who refuse to accept and abide by the teachings of his one Church, but rather it is because he loves us so much that he completely respects our free will. It is our choice to follow him or not. It is not God who condemns us, but rather it is we who condemn ourselves in our unbelief.
Don’t be fooled by those who are not in communion with the Catholic Church who say baptism is not necessary for salvation, it is ABSOLUTELY necessary. Jesus makes this perfectly clear in today’s gospel.
Jesus also promises to bless his disciples with spiritual signs. In His Name, they would cast out demons; they would speak in new tongues; they would pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drank any deadly thing it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover. It’s important to understand that some of these signs were given only to the disciples of Christ in the early days of the founding of the Church for the benefit of the universal Church. As such, they are not all in play today, some 2,000 years later. I do not recommend that anyone go out and play with snakes or drink poison to test the Word of God. In all likelihood, you would be bitten or poisoned if you did! After Jesus is taken up into Heaven, the disciples went out and proclaimed the Good News everywhere, just as he commanded. This same command is given to all Christians, for all time. It is our duty today to share the gospel using the gifts we’ve been given, just as it was the duty of the disciples some 2,000 years ago.
Jesus is always with each and every one of us as we are moved by His Spirit to proclaim the Good News to those around us, faithfully following his command to preach, teach and baptize as his witnesses to the ends of the earth. He is present in our hearts. He is truly present in His Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. He is physically present in the Holy Eucharist and in the Sacred Tabernacle. As mysterious as it appears, while He has ascended, our faith affirms to us that He is still here with us. This is very good news!
Dear friends in Christ, our duty as Christians is to give witness to God’s love, to his mercy and forgiveness. It is both a joyful and a solemn duty that is only made possible by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, given to us through baptism and confirmation. Let us pray for the Holy Spirit to fall afresh upon us so that we may each be effective evangelists in this present time, a period in history that so desperately needs his love.
So I ask you, how do YOU proclaim the Gospel to those around you? How does your neighbor know that YOU are a Christian? What are YOU prepared to do to witness to the love of God at work in your life?
As you reflect on your answer to these questions, pray with me now for the Spirit’s coming anew to fill us with his love and his power which enables us to be fearless and faithful followers of Christ. Let us together pray the “Come Holy Spirit” prayer as we say:
“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. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.