The Ascension of the Lord
June 1, 2014 – Year A
Readings: Acts 1:1-11, Psalm 47, Eph 1:17-23, Mt 28:16-20
by Rev. Salvador Añonuevo, Pastor
Yesterday I was requested to give the Last Sacraments to a Catholic who has not been to church nor been a member of any church for many years. However, he was baptized and grew up a Catholic. Through his own admission, he somehow, for reasons he himself could not understand, drifted away from his faith. Since he is already in hospice care, I thought I would be visiting somebody who is lying in bed almost all the time. But when I walked into his house, he was with his two friends drinking beer! Well, he himself was not drinking, only his friends.
Since I was there a little later than my scheduled visit, they seemed to have already had a little too much to drink. Six packs or maybe ten packs and one of them was already almost falling asleep on the couch. I said to the caregiver, “I believe the church explained to you on the phone what I am going to do. I will give him the last rites, which includes Confession and Extreme Unction.”
One of his two friends there, the one who was not too drunk, said, “No that’s okay. (Referring to Confession) I know his life. I know everything he is going to confess.” But I told him, “I’m sorry, but all of you have to leave before I will start administering the sacraments.
After everything was done, he told me that he also missed being in Church. When I was about to leave, he said, “Father, can I ask you a favor?”
I said, “Sure!” He looked at me in the eye and said, “Father, can you give me a rosary?” Then he added, “I don’t really know how to pray it, but I remember that it always ends on a happy note. It has a happy ending.” (Referring to the Glorious Mystery)
And this is what our Christian life is all about.
Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Ascension (which is the 2nd Glorious Mystery). Today’s First reading, which is taken from the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1: 1-11), tells us the story of our Lord’s Ascension into heaven. In the gospel, our Lord said to His disciples, “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,“ (Mat 28:19). And He didn’t let them just go. Our Lord in His infinite wisdom knows that to proclaim the gospel is difficult, if not humanly impossible. It doesn’t only mean proclaiming it with our words. It means proclaiming it with our lives.
Jesus knows how weak and frail we all are. To carry out the Divine Commission, we need more than just willpower and human power. That is why, at the end of the gospel of St. Matthew, He gave us this promise. “For behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Mt 38:20). He will be with us, not just like a friend who is walking beside us, He will be with us by the power of His Holy Spirit.
Today’s feast also makes our Lord’s promise a lot clearer to us when He said to his disciples, “I am going to prepare a place for you so that where I am, you also may be.”
In last Wednesday’s gospel, our Jesus told his disciples, “The world will rejoice, but you will weep and mourn. But be of good cheer, because your sorrow will be turned into joy.” And it will not only be given to us at the end of our lives. He promised this kind of joy right here, right now. So it will not, perhaps, be too difficult for us to understand why the martyrs, on the way to the lion’s den, were filled with joy. Some of them were singing joyful songs on the way to their martyrdom. Why should they be so happy, when in the eyes of the world they should be so sad and terrified? Because God gave them a joy which no one could take away from them, which is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
I usually don’t watch News on TV because my cell phone gives me breaking news. Yesterday was about the lone political prisoner who was released in Afghanistan. His parents were quoted as saying, “We can hardly wait to embrace our son.” He is their only son whom they have not seen for almost 5 years. We can just imagine what a happy reunion it will be.
Today’s Feast of the Ascension of the Lord reminds us of the great news that there is a much happier reunion we’ll experience when we eventually claim one of those places that our Lord has prepared for us in His eternal dwelling place. There we will see all our loved ones who have gone before us and are now in the company of our Lord. This is the kind of happy reunion we all long for. It will give us not only fleeting happiness, but a joy that will last for all eternity.