The Ascension of the Lord
May 13, 2018 – Year B
Readings: Acts 1:1-11 / Ps 47 / Eph 1:17-23 / Mk 16:15-20
by Rev. Mr. Eddie Craig, Permanent Deacon
Good morning, and Happy Easter, because it’s still Easter. Easter is just too big to be one day; it’s a whole season in the Church calendar. Today, as we approach the end of that season, we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, when He was taken up into heaven.
If you’ve been paying attention during all these weeks of Easter, you know that Jesus, after He was raised from the dead, was somehow different.
He would appear in rooms when the doors were locked. But there was no doubt in the minds of the apostles that this was Jesus. He spoke with them and spent time with them. But after forty days He was taken up into heaven.
When I was younger, I wondered, Why did He have to go? Why couldn’t He have just stayed? Wouldn’t it have worked better? Jesus was God, one-third of the Holy Trinity. And I pictured Jesus as a kind of super-hero, flying around the world to wherever He was needed, taking care of things. Whenever things were getting out of hand, He would swoop in and correct people. Wouldn’t that have been better?
The Gospel of John actually tells us why Jesus had to go. In John, Chapter 16, Verse 7, He says, “If I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.” Who’s the Advocate? The Holy Spirit. In fact, next week we’ll celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birthday of the Church.
But why is this better? Why is it better that Jesus ascended and took His place at the right hand of the Father and the Holy Spirit came to guide us?
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that people tend to listen to their peers more than they listen to people in authority. You see it all the time, with young people, with adults. We listen to the people we trust, the people we know best. Sure, an authority figure of some sort comes, we listen to them, and we’re impressed, but we actually tend to listen to a loved one better. Now, the authority figure can step in and enforce change, enforce rules, enforce order, but there’s a problem with enforcement. Enforcement is not love. Obeying a directive from a more powerful force is not necessarily love. Because love is always a free choice.
We know that God is Love, and love is free. If we want to be closer to God, we have to freely make the choice to love. From the beginning of the Church, the early church fathers used a particular term to describe the Church that really encompasses the whole thing. In fact, the more I read about this, the more I thought, “Oh, that’s good! Those were some smart guys!” Pope Francis has talked about it; Mother Angelica, Bishop Barron, they’ve all talked about this – the idea that the Church is our mother. It’s especially appropriate that today the liturgical calendar intersects our secular calendar, because today is Mother’s Day.
We can learn a lot by taking a look at how the Church is our mother. Our Mother Church brings forth new life through the Sacrament of Baptism. In that sacrament we die to sin and are born in the life of the Spirit. The Church feeds her children through the Eucharist, through the Gospel. The Church heals her children through Reconciliation and Anointing of the Sick. The Church prepares her children for life through the sacraments of Confirmation, Matrimony, and Holy Orders. And the Church is with us, in good times and in bad, to help us through the hard times and rejoice with us in the good times. The Church is there. And because the Church is the Bride of Christ, she does all of this with her spouse, Jesus.
One caution though: too often when we think of the Church, we think of the magisterium; the Pope in Rome and all the bishops, the priests, and the deacons. Well, the Church is all of us, because the Church is the Body of Christ, and we are all part of that body. Jesus’ instruction at the beginning of the gospel — “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature” — It’s not just to me or to Father Sal. It’s to all of us. We’re all called to do our part in the world, to be there in times of trouble and in times of joy, to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. So today I encourage everyone, while we celebrate mothers, to think about the examples that are all around us of wonderful mothers, to think about their care and support, and to think about how we can follow their example.