Feast of the Ascension – Year B
May 16, 2021 – 10:30 AM
Saint Cecilia Catholic Community
Deacon Sharon Kay Talley
Acts  1:1-11  | Psalm 47:2-3;6-9
Ephesians 4:1-7;11-13 | Mark 16:15-20

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

In the nineteen-eighties, while I was working as a Personnel Consultant in Houston, I had a friend and business associate acquaintance,  who, although he and his wife were childfree, became a father literally overnight;  you see, the sister of his wife and her husband had been tragically killed in a car accident, leaving behind two very young children, who were now orphaned.  So this couple decided to adopt and raise the two children, brother and sister, as their own.  But the thought of these two small kids being orphans at such a young age and having to start life without their real parents, who had adored them and loved them dearly, made me feel very sad.

So, today, with the Ascension of the Lord, one thing we know for sure is that the apostles in no way felt orphaned or abandoned by Jesus.  When Jesus ascended to heaven, it meant that His life on earth was ending:  the first stage was over and another one had begun.  Before Jesus had been with them physically, but now, His presence is through faith,+knowing that He is still present with them and with us always.  The ascension of Jesus proves that the apostles had a true friend not only on earth but also in heaven.  To die is not to simply stop living and turn to dust, it is to go to Jesus and be with Him eternally.

In today’s first reading from Acts, the disciples are staring off into the sky, watching the spot where the clouds took Jesus away.  Suddenly, two men in white robes appear, presumably angels, to tell the disciples that His coming will be much like His leaving.  Jesus’ role as a physically visible member of the Trinity, working on earth is over, and it is time for the Holy Spirit to take over.  The angels refer to the disciples as “men of Galilee” since, like Jesus, they were from the district of Galilee.  So when the Holy Spirit appears, they will start preaching the gospel in one of the most distinctive accents in the Roman Empire, that of a Galilean.

In our second reading today from Ephesians, Paul is writing to the believers in Ephesus while he was imprisoned in Rome.  It was his allegiance to Jesus that got him arrested and imprisoned.  Paul writes that his believers should live fives worthy of their calling.  This shows us Paul’s complete trust in God since he was writing under such duress, under difficult circumstances.  Paul encourages us to relate to others with humility and patience:  to treat all people with respect and gentleness.

Paul calls God’s family one body, so when we were brought into God’s family by baptism, we joined one unit that has one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father of all.

For us, the Liturgical year is divided into six seasons:

Advent, or the preparation for Christmas

Christmas Season or the birth of Jesus

Lent, or the period of 40 days before Easter including Holy Week, or the Passion Week of 8 days prior to Easter

Easter, known as the Passion, commemorates the resurrection of Jesus

Ordinary Time, the part of the year which falls outside of the two great seasons of Christmas and Easter; prior to Vatican II, the period after Christmas was known as Epithanytide, but later was changed to Ordinary Time.  Also, the period after Pentecost was previously known as Pentecost Season but is now known as Ordinary Time.

In addition, the Church observes memorials, feasts, and solemnities.  This Sunday, the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, is one of the great solemnities or mysterious rites.  It occurs on the fortieth day after Easter Sunday, which always falls on a Thursday.  So many churches, like St. Cecilia’s, move Ascension Day to the following Sunday in order to ensure more people are able to participate.

With the Ascension, Jesus ended His time physically on Earth and entered into God’s heavenly domain.  When Jesus ascended into heaven, He returned to where He came from and also to prepare a place for all those who believe in Him.  He said, “In my Father’s house there are many rooms.  If it weren’t so, I would have told you.  I am going to prepare a place for you.”  from the Gospel of John.

So the Ascension of the Lord is quite comforting for all who are afraid of death; or afraid of dying.  Since Jesus descended, died, resurrected, and ascended into heaven, we now have hope for the day we will be with Him in God’s Kingdom forever.

Meanwhile, Jesus has promised us the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to guide us and restore us to health, family, relationships, work, and happiness, according to God’s plan in God’s time.  With the help of the Holy Spirit we can fulfill Jesus’s mission of preaching His Gospel of ministering to the poor and the needy, and overcoming sin and evil.

To help us have a better understanding of the Trinity and the four modes of Jesus:  His pre-earthly existence since the beginning of time, His earthly or mortal existence, His resurrected body, and the Ascension of Jesus, we need to delve deeper into what is meant by “essence” and “person.”

The pre-existence of Jesus asserts His existence before the incarnation or birth.  One relevant gospel is that of John 1: 1-18 where Jesus is identified with a pre-existent divine hypostasis (a Greek word meaning substance) called the Logos or Word.

Essence is literally “what you are”.  We should not think of God as consisting of anything other than divinity.

The term “person” is typically what we use in everyday life.  A person is someone who regards oneself as “I” and others as “you”.  So the Father is a different person from the Son.  In regards to the Trinity, we can say that “Person” means a distinct subject, but these distinct subjects, the Father and the Son, are not a division within the being of God, but “a form of personal existence other than a difference in being” as stated by theologian Wayne Grudem.

There are a number of references in the Gospels referring to the four modes of Jesus’ existence.  But we never see Him claiming a divine status during His ministry on earth.  Jesus’ divinity was given to Him by God the Father, who exalted Him to heavenly glory so that we all can now reverence and honor Jesus as our Savior.

Let us pray.

Lord Jesus Christ,
Before your Ascension into heaven,
You told your disciples to be your witnesses to the ends of the earth, upon receiving the Holy Spirit.
May I be similarly inspired to spread your Gospel message
in thought, word, and deed, according to your will.
And may I do so prudently and joyfully, with your help, your guidance, and your grace! And remembering this glorious event,
help me to seek what is above, Heaven,
where you are seated at the right hand of God the Father.