Solemnity Of The Ascension
May 29, 2022 –  10:30 AM
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
Deacon Sharon Kay Talley
Acts 1:1-11 | Psalm 47:2-3;6-9
Ephesians 1:17-23 | Luke 24:46-53

 + In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.

Traditionally, the Ascension of Our Lord was held forty days after Easter, falling on a Thursday.  However, in the United States, the observance of the Solemnity of the Ascension has been moved to the following Sunday, thus superseding the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

According to Merriam-Webster, ascension means the act of rising to an important position or a higher level.  It is derived from the Latin word, “ascendere.”

There is a story I’d like to share with you about a young man, who when he was in his twenties walking along a city street, found a hundred dollar bill.  Since that day, the man decided to always look down as he walked on the streets.  By the time he reached the age of seventy, he had gathered quite a lot of stuff:  he had found hundreds of wallets with credit cards and money inside and the money he had collected amounted to thousands of dollars.  If he had collected pins and bottle tops, they would have filled truck loads.  From time to time, he gathered some valuable stuff: he had picked up at least ten cell phones and i-pods.  But above all else, he also ended up having a hunch-back!

Today’s Feast of the Ascension teaches us all to look up!  In our first reading from Acts of the Apostles, we are told, “As he said this, He was lifted up while they looked on and a cloud took Him from their sight.” explaining how Jesus ascended into heaven.  Our Gospel from Luke tells us, “Then He took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany and raising His hands, He blessed them.  Now as He blessed them, He withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven.”

This is quite similar to what happened to Elijah in the Hebrew Scriptures in the Second Book of Kings.  Elijah was with his disciple Elisha near the River Jordan when suddenly there appeared a chariot of fire drawn by horses of fire.  Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind as Elisha looked up to heaven.

And just as Elisha continued Elijah’s mission in the world, all of us, as disciples of Jesus strive to continue Jesus’ mission in the world.

Ascension marks the departure of Jesus from His earthly bodily presence to join God, the Father.  It begins a new pathway of inter-acting with Jesus for the Apostles and all the people of the world.  The Apostles continue Jesus’ mission just as Elisha continued Elijah’s mission in the Old Testament.

In the incarnation, Jesus became human by the power of the Holy Spirit through Mary.  Ascension does not mean that Jesus leaves us as it is the end of His physical and visible presence, but that His presence in its invisible and sacramental dimension has just begun.

In our first reading from Acts of the Apostles, Jesus tells His Apostles, “Do not leave Jerusalem but wait for the promise of the Father.”  referring to the restoration of Israel.  Jesus also reminds the Apostles that they need to wait to be empowered by the Holy Spirit, who will counsel and guide them.

In our second reading from Ephesians, Paul prays for God to send the Holy Spirit by saying, “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ the Father of glory give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.”  This should be our daily prayer, to invite the Holy Spirit to guide us on our mission throughout life.

And yet again, in today’s Gospel from Luke, Jesus, knowing that the Apostles needed help in order to succeed on their mission, instructed them, “Stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  Jesus, with His all-knowing wisdom, knows the path we are taking is challenging and will be a difficult undertaking, and He knows that in order to be successful, we, like the Apostles, must rely on the help of the Holy Spirit.

Did you know that Jesus has a greater purpose for our lives?  That purpose is to know God, to make Him known, and to love God and love all people.  Discovering our purpose defines the way we live and ultimately is what we are going to be remembered for:  one’s legacy.  According to Billy Graham, “The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or material things but rather a legacy of character and faith.”

The legacy of Jesus begins with Him washing the disciples’ feet, showing His service and humility.  Jesus taught us courage, hope, selflessness, and love for all people.  Jesus espouses values that are simple and down to earth; they are realistic, and the image He created is more reachable.  His values are spiritual, eternal, and enduring.  The Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit live a life of peace and harmony and Jesus tells us in the Gospel of John, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you, not as the world giveth, give I unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  This peace is a free gift and part of the legacy Jesus left behind.

As we look at our world today, with the inhumane conflict in Ukraine, and the uncontrolled number of mass shootings in the United States, we pray for the working of the Holy Spirit by which peace will overcome the souls of those initiating violence against others. We all need divine help in order to succeed in our purpose in life and this divine help will come from the Holy Spirit.

So, today, as we celebrate the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus we must prepare for the fulfillment of His promise next week on Pentecost Sunday.

Let us pray.

Heavenly Father,

May the boldness of the Holy Spirit transform us,

May the gentleness of the Holy Spirit lead us,

May the gifts of the Holy Spirit equip us

To serve and worship you, now and forever.

This we ask in Jesus’ name.