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HOMILY ON THE FEAST OF

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THE FEAST OF ASCENSION OF OUR LORD – JUNE 5, 2011
           (ACTS 1: 1-11; EPHESIANS 1: 17-23; MATTHEW 28: 16-20)


Anecdote # 1: Solar Power: One of the national coordinators of Sun Day held
early in May every year is Denis Hayes. He worked as researcher at a
Washington D.C. ‗think-tank‘ and has written a book on solar energy entitled
Rays of Hope: The Transition to a Post-Petroleum World. Hayes claims that we are at
the crossroads of making a critical choice for mankind – the choice between
going solar or going nuclear for a power source. Hayes opts for the sun because
it is ―the world‘s only inexhaustible, predictable, egalitarian, non-polluting, safe,
terrorist-resistant and free energy source.‖ We‘ve already learned to use the
power of the sun to grow food, make wine and operate greenhouses. All we need
to do is develop better technology to harness solar energy to heat houses, drive
our cars and run our industry. People like Hayes are looking at the sky with its
sun as the main source of our future energy supply. Today we turn our attention
to the sky for another reason – to commemorate our Lord‘s Ascension into
heaven. In the first reading, from Acts, Jesus makes a promise: ―You will receive
power when the Holy Spirit comes down on you.‖ That Spirit is the power
source that can give all the energy we need to live our lives to the full. (Albert
Cylwicki in „His Word Resounds‟)

# 2: ―Is this thing working?‖ There is the funny story of the raw army recruit
standing at attention on the drill field. The drill instructor yells, "Forward,
march!" And the entire ranks begin to move, all except this one raw recruit. He's
still standing there at attention. So the drill instructor strolls over to him and
yells in his right ear, "Is this thing working?" "Sir, yes, sir!" The recruit yells.
Then the drill instructor walks around to the other ear and yells, "Is this thing
working?" "Sir, yes, sir!" The soldier says. "Then why didn't you march when I
gave the order?" "Sir, I didn't hear you call my name." Some of us are like that
soldier standing around waiting for God to call our names. But the great
commission given by Jesus on the day of his Ascension is a blanket order. It has
everyone's name on it. And you can be sure that the man in charge says, "Go!
Make disciples! Teach!” It is your mission and my mission.

# 3: "I have no other plan -- it must work." A beautiful old story tells of how
Jesus, after his ascension into Heaven, was surrounded by the Holy Angels who
began to enquire about his work on earth. Jesus told them about His birth, life,
preaching, death and resurrection, and how he had accomplished the salvation
of the world. The angel Gabriel asked, ―Well, now that you are back in Heaven,
who will continue your work on earth?" Jesus said, "While I was on earth, I
gathered a group of people around me who believed in me and loved me. They
will continue to spread the Gospel and carry on the work of the Church.‖ Gabriel
was perplexed. "You mean Peter, who denied you thrice and all the rest who ran
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away when you were crucified? You mean to tell us that you left them to carry
on your work? And what will you do if this plan doesn't work?" Jesus said, "I
have no other plan -- it must work." Truly, Jesus has no other plan than to
depend on the efforts of his followers!

Introduction: Today‘s readings describe the ascension of the Lord Jesus into
his heavenly glory after promising his Holy Spirit as the source of heavenly
power for his disciples and after commanding them to bear witness to him by
their lives and preaching throughout the world. What is celebrated is Jesus‘
exaltation and the end of his earthly existence as a prelude to the gift of the
Spirit. The ascended Jesus is still with us because of his promise, "I am with you
always; yes, to the end of time.” He is with us at all times and in all places,
releasing a new energy upon the earth, the energy of the Holy Spirit to preach his
Good News of salvation by bearing witness to him. Hence today‘s feast is the
celebration of Jesus‘ glory after his suffering and death – the glory in which we
also hope to share. The Ascension and Pentecost, together, mark the beginning
of the Church. The feast of the Ascension tells us that the church must be a
community in mission, guided by God‘s Spirit and confident of God‘s protection
even amid suffering and death. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles
describes the scene of Jesus‘ ascension and his promise of the Holy Spirit and the
missionary command to bear witness to him. In the second reading, St. Paul
explains the theological meaning of Jesus‘ exaltation. He amplifies this message
by saying, "May God enlighten the eyes of our heart so that we may know the great
hope to which we have been called." Although risen and ascended, Jesus is still with
us as his Holy Spirit in the Holy Bible, in the Holy Eucharist, in the other
sacraments and in the praying community. He remains accessible to us now as a
life-giving Spirit. Today‘s gospel tells us that, with his return to the Father, Jesus
completes his mission on earth. In the descriptions of Christ after his
resurrection, we are given a hint of what life will be like in heaven. But it is in
his Ascension that we see him entering fully into the life and glory of God. The
prospect of sharing that glory should be the driving force of our lives.

The first reading: Acts 1:1-11 describes how Jesus interacted with his disciples for
forty days after his resurrection. He instructed his disciples to remain in
Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit, the source of power. Once they received the
Spirit they would bear witness to him to the ends of the earth by their preaching
and lives: ―You will be baptized with the Holy Spirit‖ and become his “witnesses in
Jerusalem, throughout Judea and to the ends of the earth.‖ Then he was lifted up in
the sky and a cloud covered him. The disciples received the angelic message that
the ascended Jesus would come back again. Thus, the ascension of Jesus means
that the risen Jesus has entered into the glory of his heavenly Father. He has
accomplished our salvation by his suffering and death, resurrection, ascension,
and the sending of the Spirit.
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Today's psalm, “God is king of all the earth,” celebrates God's universal kingship.
It was originally sung in connection with a cultic procession honoring the Ark of
the Covenant. This most sacred religious object served as a pedestal upon which
God was invisibly enthroned. During an annual feast it would be taken from
repose in the Temple‘s Holy of Holies and returned in solemn procession. "God
mounts his throne!" This cultic cry refers to the solemn installation of the Ark
within the Temple, a liturgical reenactment of the universal lordship that is God's
from eternity. Now, by his Ascension the risen Lord likewise "mounts his
throne" in glory.

In the second reading (Eph 1:17-23), St. Paul puts special emphasis on the truth
that Jesus, our triumphant Lord now rules in glory over all creation. He prays:
"May God enlighten the eyes of our heart so that we may know the great hope to which
we have been called." In the alternate second reading (Eph. 4:4-13), Paul exhorts
the disciples to live in a manner worthy of their calling and mission. The greatest
witness we can bear to the presence of Jesus in our midst is our unity with God,
seen in our living with one another in peace and harmony.

Exegetical notes: A) The ascension: Each Sunday we profess through the
Creed, "He ascended into heaven." Christ‘s Ascension was the culmination of
God‘s divine plan for Christ Jesus, by his return to his Father with ―Mission
Accomplished." Ascension is the grand finale of all his words and - works done
for us and for our salvation. It was a culmination, but not the conclusion. As he
is now with God in glory, he is now with us in Spirit: "Lo, I am with you always."
The feast of the Ascension celebrates one aspect of the resurrection, namely
Jesus‘ exaltation. He did not wait 40 days to be glorified at God‘s right hand.
That already happened at his resurrection. The focus of this feast is the heavenly
reign of Christ, not the scientific details of the ascension itself. The Ascension of
Jesus does not mean that he literally began to float up into space. Other incidents
of the Bible, such as the ascension of Elijah suggested to Luke the spatial imagery
he used to tell of our Lord‘s departure. The Lord would be 'seated at God‘s right
hand', meaning He alone would be in control of the continuing plan of salvation
through the Spirit, unrestricted by time, space or culture. Thus the Paschal
Mystery of Jesus' passion, death, resurrection, ascension and the sending of the
Holy Spirit forms one unbroken reality which is to be understood by faith.
Ascension simply means that Jesus is with his Father in glory.


B) The Ascension account: The biblical accounts of the Ascension focus not so
much on the details of the event as on the mission Jesus gave to his disciples. For
example, in the accounts narrated in Luke and Acts, the Ascension took place in
Jerusalem. In Matthew and Mark, on the other hand, the event occurred in
Galilee. All accounts, however, agree that the Ascension took place on a
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mountain. In Luke and Acts, the Ascension happened forty days after the
Resurrection, a period during which Jesus appeared repeatedly to his followers.
In Matthew and Mark there is no indication of the time period between the
Resurrection and the Ascension. The gospel writers apparently were not aiming
at accuracy of historical detail but were more concerned with transmitting Our
Lord‘s       message.

C) The ascension message: "Preach the good news and be my witnesses:"
Matthew, Mark and Acts record Jesus‘ last words differently: 1) ―You will receive
power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in
Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). 2) ―Go
therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). 3) ―Go into all the world
and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mark.16:15). All are in agreement
that (a) Jesus gave his disciples a mission of bearing witness to him by preaching
and living the good news. They are to tell and re-tell the story of Jesus' life,
suffering, death and resurrection. (b) He assured them of the divine assistance of
his Holy Spirit in the carrying out of this mission.

D) Christmas and Ascension: The Ascension is most closely related, in meaning,
to Christmas. In Jesus, the human and the divine become united in the person
and life of one man. That's Christmas. At the Ascension, this human being – the
person and the resurrected body of Jesus – became for all eternity a part of who
God is. It was not the spirit of Jesus or the divine nature of Jesus that ascended
to the Father. It was the resurrected body of Jesus: a body that the disciples had
touched, a body that had eaten and drunk with them, a real, physical, but
gloriously restored body, bearing the marks of nails and a spear. This is what
ascended. This is what, now and forever, is a living, participating part of God.
The Ascension, along with the Incarnation, is here to tell us that it is a good thing
to be a human being; indeed it is a wonderful and an important and a holy thing
to be a human being. It is such an important thing that God did it. Even more,
the fullness of God now includes what it means to be a human being.

Life messages: 1) We need to be proclaimers and evangelizers: In today's
gospel, Jesus gives his mission to all the believers: "Go out to the whole world and
proclaim the gospel to every creature.” This mission is not given to a select few but
to all believers. To be a Christian is to be a proclaimer and an evangelizer. There
is a difference between preaching and proclaiming. ―We preach with words but we
proclaim with our lives.” As we celebrate the Lord‘s return to His Father in heaven
– His Ascension -- we are being commissioned to go forth and proclaim the
Gospel of life and love, of hope and peace, by the witness of our lives. On this
day of hope, encouragement and commissioning, let us renew our commitment
to be true disciples everywhere we go, beginning with our family and our parish,
"living in a manner worthy of the call [we] have received.”
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2) We need to live a life of Christian joy in the presence of the ascended Lord.
According to Luke, the disciples "returned to Jerusalem with great joy." Apparently
Jesus' exaltation and final blessing gave them, as it gives us, the assurance that,
though absent, he is still present, present even in the pain and sorrow we
undergo. That is why St. Augustine assures us, ―Christ is now exalted above the
heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his
body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: 'Saul, Saul,
why do you persecute Me?' and when he said: 'I was hungry and you gave me
food.' While in heaven he is also with us; and while on earth we are with him. He
is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven,
as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love."

3) We have a teaching mission: Jesus taught us lessons of faith, hope,
forgiveness, mercy, redemption and love. We cannot put these lessons on a
shelf and ignore them. They stand before us in the person of Jesus. Although
no longer visibly present in the world, He is present in his words. We must
make his words real in our lives and in the lives of others. Christianity was
meant to be a faith in which Jesus‘ followers would help and care for others, just
as Jesus had done. But the spreading of the Good News to all nations is not a
goal that can be attained by human might and craft. This is why Jesus promises
to empower his messengers with His abiding presence and that of the Holy
Spirit. The challenge of sharing the Good News with all mankind should,
therefore, begin with our admission that we have often been arrogant and
overbearing. We must learn to be humble and let the Holy Spirit lead the way.

4) The ascended Jesus is our source of strength and encouragement: Perhaps
some of the nagging doubts which inevitably accompany the journey of faith
could be lessened by our meditating on the Ascension and its implications.
When we are too far from faith to pray on our own, let us remember that we
have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous, praying for us.
When the trials of life feel too heavy to bear, we must remember that Christ will
come again in glory, the same glory in which he arose from the tomb, the same
glory in which he ascended, and the same glory in which he currently abides.
Though our limited perception might find him absent, he is fully present,
participating in every moment of our lives. By His ascension, Christ has not
deserted us but has made it possible for his Spirit to enter all times and places.
In this way it is possible for each of us to be transformed by the power of the
Spirit into agents or instruments of Christ. We become enlivened with his Spirit.
Our actions become animated in a new way by the Spirit of the God we love and
serve. We have become Christs in the world.

JOKE OF THE WEEK
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# 1: The ascension mission to preach the gospel: After attending a convention led
by Billy Graham a woman wrote to him. ―Dear Sir, I feel that God is calling me to
preach the gospel. But the trouble is that I have twelve children. What shall I
do?‖ The televangelist replied: ―Dear Madam, I am delighted to hear that God
has called you to preach the Gospel. I am even more delighted to hear that He
has already provided you with a congregation in your own home.‖ The

# 2: Ascension walk-out: There was a long-winded pastor who preached
salvation history from Genesis to Revelation in every sermon. On the feast of
Ascension as he reached Isaiah, he remarked that the prophet said nothing about
the ascension of Our Lord. He asked his audience, ―What shall we do with him?‖
One old man in the front seat said, ―He can have my seat, Father, I am leaving.‖

# 3: And after death ascend or descend? At the end of school what do you want
to do? I want to do my Senior Certificate. After your Senior Certificate what do
you want to do? - I want to go to college. After college what do you want to do?
- I want to get a job. Then what do you want to do? - I want to make big money.
What do you want to do after making money? - I want to build a big house.
After that what do you intend to do? - I want to get married. What will you do
after getting married? - I will have a family. What will you do after having a
family? - I will retire. What do you want to do after you retire? - I want to take a
rest. What will you do after taking a rest? - I don‘t know. Will you die? - Oh yes, I
will die too. What will happen after death? I am not sure!

Websites of the week

1) Fr. James Farfaglia website: http://fatherjames.org/about/

2) Catholic Oline Drectory: http://www.catholic.org/newsearch/




       (“Scriptural Homilies” no.338 by Fr. Tony (akadavil@mobis.com) L/11


Fr. Anthony Kadavil, St. John the Baptist Church, POB 417, 12450 Hwy 188, Grand Bay, AL 36541
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14 Additional anecdotes: 1) The Unfinished Painting: Leonardo da Vinci
had started to work on a large canvas in his studio. For a while he worked at it –
choosing the subject, planning the perspective, sketching the outline, applying
the colors, with his own inimitable genius. Then suddenly he stopped working
on it. Summoning one of his talented students, the master invited him to
complete the work. The horrified student protested that he was both unworthy
and unable of completing the great painting which his master had begun. But da
Vinci silenced him. "Will not what I have done inspire you to do your best?"
Jesus our Master began to spread the Good News two thousand years ago, by
what he said and did, and supremely by what he suffered. He illustrated his
message and he has left us to finish the picture. Will his life not inspire us to
finish the picture? This is the message of the Ascension (John Rose in 'John's
Sunday Homilies'). L/11

2) Passing the Baton: The critical moment in a relay race is the passing of the
baton from one runner to another. More relays are won or lost at that moment
than at any other. The feast of the ascension might be compared to the passing of
the baton in a relay race. On this day over 2,000 years ago, Jesus passed the baton
of responsibility for the Kingdom of God to his followers. Jesus commissioned
them to complete the work he had begun. Practically, what does this mean? How
do you and I, in the 20th century, carry out Jesus‘ commission to be his witnesses
to the world and his teachers to the nations? There are as many ways to do this
as there are Christians. We can do what two 25-year-old university graduates did
recently. After completing their degrees, one from Georgetown and the other
from Marquette, they entered the Seminary. We can do what Albert Schweitzer
did. At the age of 30 he abandoned his music career in Europe to study medicine
and became a missionary doctor in Africa. We can do what the baseball coach of
Spring Hill College, Alabama, did a few years back. At the age of 35 he resigned
his position and began his studies for the priesthood. We can do what a
Visitation nun Mother Angelica did. In her 50s she began a Catholic religious
television channel, EWTN. (Mark Link S. J.                 in „Sunday Homilies‟).

3) Great commissions: Actually there have been many persons given exciting
commissions in their lifetimes. There was Michelangelo's commission to paint
the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, Sir Christopher Wren's commission to build St.
Paul's Cathedral in London, Walter Reed's assignment to stop yellow fever at the
"Big Ditch" in Panama, Chamberlain's orders to stop the Confederates at Little
Roundtop in Gettysburg and most recently the mission of the U.S. Navy Seals to
get the terrorist master-mind, Bin Laden, dead or alive. But I tell you, in my life
and yours, there is an even greater commission. It is found here in Matthew
28:18-20 where Jesus Christ turns to his disciples and says, ―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.”
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4) "Torpedo evangelism." Rebecca Pippert, the author of Out of the Salt Shaker:
Into the World, tells of a time she was sitting in her car at a traffic light with her
window rolled down. As the light turned green a car drove by and its occupant
threw something into her car hitting her on the cheek. It didn't hurt but she was
so startled that she pulled over immediately. When she unrolled the paper, she
discovered it was a gospel tract. She says she was the apparent victim of what
she refers to as "torpedo evangelism." I'm sure the torpedoer meant well. At least
I hope so, but he or she did the wrong thing for the right reason in the wrong
way. We can engage people in conversation about their faith and their
relationship with God in a non-judgmental manner. We can encourage. We can
invite. We can offer counsel. But we leave the hard work, the heart work, up to
Jesus and the Holy Spirit. You see, we are not on some sort of spiritual mugging
mission.

5) Reaching Peak Performance: One of the superstars in that professional
speakers‘ circuit is a man named Charles Garfield. He is a psychologist from San
Francisco. He makes up to 150 speeches a year, he says. Actually, if the truth
were known, he makes one speech 150 times. He began his career as a
mathematician for NASA. He was part of the Apollo Project that put a man on
the moon. He left NASA to study psychology. He became interested in what
motivates people to reach their highest possible achievement in this life. He went
to Berkeley and got a PhD in psychology. Then he interviewed 1,500 people on
how they achieved what he called "peak performance." He published that result
in a book, and then he started on the lecture circuit. He said the one thing that all
peak performers have in common is a sense of mission. "What you need in this
life if you want to have fulfillment is a sense of mission." It is giving yourself to
something that is greater than yourself. That is what a mission is. That mission is
found at the conclusion of Matthew's gospel: "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."
Not only does the Church have a mission to perform in this world, but
everybody in the Church is supposed to have a part in performing that mission.

6) ―They don't drink no water." The chief warrant officer was brought before the
provost marshal and asked if he had received the general's order. "Yes, Sir."
"Then why didn't you comply?" roared the provost.
"Well, Sir, I didn't think it applied to us."
"And why not?"
"Because, Sir, when my men go to town, they don't drink no water."[Robert L.
Jamison, "Humor in Uniform," Laughter, the Best Medicine, (New York: Berkley
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Books, 1981), p. 29.] Fortunately, those men who first heard the ascending Lord's
orders did not look for ways to get around them but did what they told.

7) Nietchze and Hitler: Nietchze, the German philosopher, said, "God is dead
and the stench of his corpse is all across Europe." He advocated humanism and
proposed the development of a "superman" of Aryan heritage, protected by
selective breeding and superior education. The Nazi Party picked up his idea,
and men like Hitler, Goering, Goebbels, Mengle, Himmler, and Rommel set
about building such a society in Germany's Third Reich. But it all ended with
bullets and bombs, chaos and suffering such as the world has seldom seen. The
Christian faith has no less a plan. But it involves a higher order. Hitler would
have renewed man by his own efforts. We seek to renew the human race by the
work of God. Our mission as given by the ascending Jesus is not to make
converts or church members, but baptized, obedient disciples!

8) Three-step baptism: In one of the great cathedrals of Europe there is a
baptistery that tells the story. The water flows through it reminding us that Jesus
says he is the living water. To be baptized, a person walks down three steps, each
one marked by a word: the world, the flesh, and the devil. Descending the steps
the convert is plunged beneath the water to die to sin and then raised from the
depths to newness of life in Christ. To leave the baptistery now he must climb
three steps, each one marked by a word: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
So it is that a new creature is born, a new breed of man, a citizen of a new
kingdom, a breed apart. Dead to sin, he is alive to God and sent forth to grow
and love and give light to a lost and dying world. He doesn't do it alone. He does
it in the Church, in little communities. In these, people demonstrate, in their way
of being together, God's eternal kingdom come upon them. It took Michelangelo
over ten years to paint the Sistine Chapel. Our missionary commission lasts until
the job gets done, until life is over, "until the close of the age."

9) ―Alter your course 10 degrees north.‖ Have you heard the story of a sea
captain who was guiding his ship on a very dark night? He saw faint lights in the
distance and told his signalman to send a message, ―Alter your course 10 degrees
south.‖ A prompt message returned, ―Alter your course 10 degrees north.‖ The
captain became angry because his command had been ignored, so he sent a
second message, ―I command you to alter your course 10 degrees south!‖ Again
a message promptly returned, ―Alter your course 10 degrees north.‖ Infuriated,
the captain sent off a third message: ―I am the captain and this is a battleship.
Alter your course 10 degrees south!‖ Once again a prompt reply came, ―Alter
your course 10 degrees north – I am a lighthouse.‖ These last words of Jesus are
the signal we are to obey. No wonder we label the call ―the Great Commission.‖
The tragedy of the church – our great sin – is that the Great Commission of Jesus
is our ―great omission.‖
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10) Plus Ultra = "More beyond!‖ ―In Fourteen Hundred Ninety-two/Columbus
sailed the ocean blue!" In 1992 the world marked the 500th anniversary of
Christopher Columbus' adventure in the Santa Maria. As we all now know,
Columbus did not end up where he was headed, which is why some native
Americans are now called Indians. This man from Genoa believed "God granted
me the gift of knowledge ... (and) revealed to me that it was feasible to sail ... to
the Indies, and placed in me a burning desire to carry out this plan." Columbus
set out with a belief that he had tested with his mind, and with a faith to which
he was willing to give his life! How many of us can walk in Columbus' shoes?
When, on Friday, August 3, 1492, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, eased
away from their moorings at Palos, in southern Spain, Columbus was putting his
beliefs and his faith into the realities of life. Before the reports of his trans-
Atlantic travel penetrated the Old World, Spanish coins had stamped upon them
an outline of the Straits of Gibraltar. Underneath the outline of the Straits was the
Latin inscription Ne Plus Ultra. It translates, "No more beyond." It meant that the
world ended in the great expansive voids of water beyond the Straits. There was
nothing more. But once Columbus returned home and told of what he had seen,
of what he had discovered, and once that report was widely shared, new coins
were minted. The inscription was changed to Plus Ultra. It translates, "More
beyond!" That is the mountaintop affirmation which came to the disciples in
Galilee and the word that ends Matthew's gospel.

11) Wellington defeated: Wellington and Napoleon were fighting the battle of
Waterloo. It was a decisive battle. Life for many, many persons hinged on its
outcome. At last, word was transmitted to London by means of semaphores - a
visual code with reflected sunlight spelling out the message letter by letter. A
sentry picked up the message from his post atop a great cathedral. Letter by
letter he passed on the message to London. The first word was "Wellington." The
second word was "defeated." Suddenly a very dense fog settled in upon the
cathedral, making it impossible for the light to penetrate the mists and allow the
message forwarded on. The fog grew more dense, and its darkness was mirrored
in the hearts of the Londoners who had received the word, "Wellington
defeated." It meant that Napoleon had won. The English of London were a
conquered people. Hope was gone. Liberty was no more. England was ruled by
another. But as suddenly as it had come, the fog lifted. The sentry returned to his
tower, and went back to his duties, feverishly attempting to transmit the whole
message. And London saw it - the good news breaking upon the city and telling
the full story: "Wellington defeated the enemy!" Whether the semaphores'
message to London is history or fiction, it does convey the truth of Christian
faith! That truth is the shout first heard in Joseph's garden as the earliest
followers of Christ made the discovery. It is the victory message of Jesus' word to
his disciples upon that Galilee mountaintop, and it is the shout heard through
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the centuries as human life has been understood as life lived in two worlds - one
temporal, the other eternal.

12) "I am the smartest man in the world‖. A ridiculous story with religious
significance has been making the rounds lately. It is about a pilot and three
passengers a boy scout, a priest, and an atomic scientist in a plane that develops
engine trouble in mid-flight. The pilot rushes back to the passenger compartment
and exclaims, "The plane is going down! We only have three parachutes, and
there are four of us! I have a family waiting for me at home. I must survive!"
With that, he grabs one of the parachutes and jumps out of the plane. The atomic
scientist jumps to his feet at this point and declares, "I am the smartest man in the
world. It would be a great tragedy if my life were snuffed out!" With that, he also
grabs a parachute and exits the plane. With an alarmed look on his face, the
priest says to the Boy Scout, "My son, I have no family. I am ready to meet my
Maker. You are still young with much ahead of you. You take the last
parachute.‖ At this point, the Boy Scout interrupts the priest, "Hold on, Father.
Don't say any more. We're all right. The world's smartest man just jumped out of
the plane wearing my knapsack!" For such smart people who do not believe in
an afterlife, today‘s feast of ascension seems a myth. But it is the guarantee of
their resurrection and ascension to heaven for Christians.

13) Are we going to them? 95% of North American Christians will not lead a single
person to Christ in their lifetime and I cry, ―Lord, help us!‖ Some of you know
the story: 36 million Americans (14% of the population) live in poverty. Of those,
the portion living in our urban centers has increased from 30% in 1968 to about
47% today. Are we going to them? And are we going to the 57% of the 36 million
poor who remain in rural America? Seventy million individuals in the United
States are under the age of 18—are we going to them? Nearly one million foreign-
born people immigrate to this country every year. Are we going to them? Thirty-
two million people in America speak some language other than English as their
primary language. Are we going to them? We have more unsaved and unchurched
people in our nation than ever before in our history—172 million. Are we going to
them? Ninety percent of the population of the United States now lives in urban
settings. Are we going to them? Over 150 million people in America claim to be
―born-again Christians.‖ We have to question what that means. And we wonder
if people are not interpreting the Christian faith as mere mental assent to correct
doctrine, accepting forgiveness and professing Christ as an insurance policy – a
way to get into heaven when we die and leave this earth – missing the whole
notion of discipleship, growing into the likeness of Christ. If all born-again
Christians were disciples, would there not be greater signs of the transforming
power of Christ at work in the world?
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14) ―The City of the World increasingly oozes its decay.‖ Peter Kreeft, professor
at Boston College, has perceptively noted, ―the City of the World increasingly
oozes its decay.‖ We saw signs of it in the half-time show of the 38th Super Bowl.
One hundred million people – how many children were among them? – saw
Justin Timberlake rip off a portion of Janet Jackson‘s upper clothing, exposing a
private part of her body. We cringed at that and the media talked about it for
days. But not much was said about the ―dirty‖ dancing and lewd lyrics,
including words about getting a woman naked before the song was done. Other
singers through lyrics and dance displayed sexual lust as they gyrated with
female dancing partners. The truth, friends, is that halftime show is not the
exception in television fare. In fact, it was rather tame compared to what
constantly flows from television and the Internet. ―The City of the World
increasingly oozes its decay.‖ But what about disciples of Jesus? What about the
Church? What about the City set on a hill? What are we doing about ―the fact
that all the septic tanks on the hill are backing up‖? We need disciples with a
passion of shedding the light of Christ into every dark corner of the world.

15) Gaze heavenward but go worldwide! Nicky often boasted about his deep
faith. Once, a storm arose and the rains threatened to flood Nicky‘s house. A
fireman rushed in and said, ―Come, I‘ll carry you away!‖ Pointing upward,
Nicky exclaimed, ―Jesus is the way!‖ The downpour continued and the
waters reached Nicky‘s waist. A fisherman rowed by and screamed, ―Jump
in, I‘ll steer you to safety!‖ gazing heavenward, Nicky retorted, ―Only Jesus
saves!‖ Later, rising rainwater forced Nicky to climb onto the rood. The pilot
of a helicopter hovering overhead shouted, ―I‘ll help you!‖ Nicky replied: ―I
trust in God alone!‖ Nicky drowned in the raging waters. In heaven, he
complained: ―Lord, I trusted you, but you abandoned me!‖ God replied, ―No,
I didn‘t! I tried to save you as fireman, fisherman and pilot! Why didn‘t you
do anything besides gazing heavenward?‖ Francis Gonsalves in „Sunday Seeds
for daily Deeds ‟(quoted in (Net for Life)

16) He is the same yet different……Lech Walesa worked for years as an
electrician in the Gdansk shipyards. During those years he and his fellow
workers founded the movement which came to be known as ‗Solidarity.‘ Walesa
became its leader. This brought them into open conflict with the communist
leaders. Eventually the workers won out. The communist regime collapsed and
democracy returned to Poland. Then on December 9, 1990 something happened
which a few years prior would have been unthinkable. Walesa the shipyard
worker was elected first president of a free and democratic Poland. It was a great
honor for Walesa. His fellow workers were delighted. They too felt honored
because of their association with him. However there was sadness too. They
knew that it would change forever the way they related to him. They knew they
were losing him. However they were hoping that he would not forget them and
                                      13


that he would help them from his new and more influential position. -The
illustration may go some way in helping us to understand what we are
celebrating on this great feast of Ascension. Flor McCarthy in „New Sunday and
Holy Day Liturgies‟ (quoted in Net for Life)

17) The power within: A priest, Walter Ciszek by name, was in Russia for 23
years, five of which were spent in the dreaded Lubyanka prison in Moscow
and ten of which were spent in the harsh Siberian slave labour camp. He was
finally released from Russia in 1963, in exchange for two Soviet spies held in
USA. He died in 1984 at the age of 84. After release he wrote a book ―He
Leadeth Me‘. In this book he tries to answer the question: ‗How did you
manage to survive in Russia?‘ he says: ―I was able to endure the inhuman
conditions in which I found myself because I experienced somehow the
presence of God. I never lost my faith that God was with me, even in the
worst of circumstances.‖ What was true of Fr. Walter Ciszek is true of each of
us. Jesus is with us; God is with us in the power of his Holy Spirit.Vima
Dasan in „His Word Lives‟ (quoted in Net for Life)

18) Footprints: In the familiar story entitled ―Footprints‖ a man at the end of
his life wanted to know why in though times there was only one set of
footprints in the sand. After all, the Lord had promised to walk with him all
the way. The Lord replied by telling him that he never left him in times of
trial. When the man saw only one set of footprints, it was then that the Lord
carried him. The Lord was with Fr. Ciszek for twenty-three years of hardship
in Russia. The Lord was with the man walking in the sand. May the risen
Lord be with us all the days of our life.
Albert Cylwicki in „His Word Resounds‟ (quoted in Net for Life)

19) Run the race well: Many years ago, a great Arctic explorer started on an
expedition to the North Pole. After having spent two years in the freezing
and lonely place, he wrote a message, tied it to the leg of a carrier pigeon,
and let it loose to make the two thousand miles journey to Norway. The bird
circled thrice, and then started its southward flight in the freezing cold for
hundreds of miles; it travelled and crossed the icy frozen oceans and
wastelands until it reached and dropped into the lap of the explorer‘s wife.
The arrival of the bird proved that everything was well with her husband in
that deserted, lonely and frozen arctic North. Likewise, the coming of the
Holy Spirit on the day of the Pentecost proved to the disciples that Jesus had
entered the heavenly sanctuary after His Ascension as He had promised.
Now He was seated at the right hand of God the Father, for His redemption
work was over. The coming of the Holy Spirit was the fulfilment of the
promise of Christ. John Rose in „John‟s Sunday Homilies‟(quoted in Net for Life)
 (L/11)
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JUNE 5: SYNOPSIS OF THE HOMILY ON THE ASCENSION OF OUR LORD (MT 28: 16-20)


Introduction: Today‘s readings describe the ascension of the Lord Jesus into his
heavenly glory after promising his disciples his Holy Spirit as their source of
heavenly power, and after commanding them to bear witness to him by their
lives and preaching throughout the world. But the ascended Jesus is still with us
through his indwelling Holy Spirit as he has promised, "I am with you always; yes,
to the end of time.” Today‘s feast is a celebration of Jesus‘ glory after his suffering
and death – a glory in which we also hope to share.

The scripture lessons:   The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes
the scene of Jesus‘ ascension, his promise of the Holy Spirit, his instruction to the
apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the power from above and the missionary
command to his apostles to bear witness to him. In the second reading, St. Paul
amplifies this message, saying, "May God enlighten the eyes of our heart so that we
may know the great hope to which we have been called." Paul teaches us that God
revealed His might in the resurrection and ascension of Christ and in his
exaltation over all angelic forces. He remains accessible to us now in his life-
giving Spirit. Today‘s gospel tells us that, with his return to the Father, Jesus
completed his mission on earth. But just before his ascension he entrusted to his
disciples the mission of preaching and teaching the good news and evangelizing
the whole world, by bearing witness to him through their lives. In the
descriptions of Christ after his resurrection, we are given a hint of what life will
be like in heaven. But it is in his Ascension that we see him entering fully into
the life and glory of God. The prospect of sharing in that glory should be the
driving force of our lives.

Life messages: 1) We need to be proclaimers and evangelizers: To be a Christian
is to be a proclaimer and an evangelizer. There is a difference between preaching
and proclaiming. We preach with words but we proclaim with our lives. Let us
ask the guidance of the Spirit of God to bear witness to Jesus by our transparent
Christian lives. 2) We have a teaching mission: Jesus taught us lessons of faith,
hope, love, forgiveness, mercy and salvation by his life and preaching and gave
us the mission to teach these to others. Hence, let us learn about Jesus and his
teachings by our daily study of the Bible and the teachings of the Church,
experience him in personal prayer, reception of the sacraments and works of
charity, and convey to others Jesus whom we have experienced with the help of
his Holy Spirit.

3) The ascended Jesus is our source of strength and encouragement: We will be
able to overcome doubts about our faith and baseless fears, anxieties and
worries by meditating on Jesus‘ Ascension and the lesson it teaches that we, too,
are called to share his glory in heaven.
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