Fr. Anton’s homily for the Ascension

Pope Francis has a way of saying “We cannot honor our Mothers too much.  Without Mothers, there would be no priests or religious, no faithful  doing the works of Christ, no one to sing the praises of the Lord.”

On behalf of our Community, “Happy Mother’s Day” to all the mothers with us today, a day when we remember all our mothers with love and prayer!

My brothers and sisters, many of us remember the television series Star Trek, starring Wm Shatner,  and the catchphrase “Beam me up, Scotty!” based on the command Capt Kirk gave his chief engineer when he needed to be transported back to the Starship Enterprise.

If we were students in a Catholic school,  every year we looked forward to forty days after Easter, Ascension Thursday, a Holy Day of Obligation, which meant a free day from school, when we could play outside on a beautiful day in May and rub it in the jealousy of the kids in public school.

Maybe we thought that’s what the feast was all about: Jesus getting beamed up to heaven, teleported up from the earth …After all, our gospel simply says: ‘So after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.’

The first reading added  scant more details:

‘As they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. They were still looking up intently as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white  stood beside them, saying “Men of Galilee, why do  you stand here looking up at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return … the same way .. you have seen him going into heaven.”’

Well, hard to believe, but  “Beam me up, Scotty,” is a misquotation. That phrase was never spoken verbatim in any of the TV series or films.   Several things sounded close, but never that exact  quote, it something that just took on a life of its own, even became a bumper sticker.

That aside, Jesus  really was taken up into heaven, which we recite in our Creed, and will repeat again today:  “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”

His Ascension is an important feast, but it can get overshadowed by 40 days of Lent climaxing in Holy Week,  then joyful celebrations of Easter for 50 days, culminating in Pentecost, the birthday of the Church and opening of the Reign of God.

One day,  Ascension Thursday,  standing alone, lost in the shuffle.

So important a Feast, however,  that 20 years ago, the bishops moved it to a  Sunday ,to facilitate the obligation to attend Mass, and  include as many as possible in celebrating it.

That’s where we are today.  The Ascension of the Lord, His ultimate victory celebration. Jesus raised from the dead, now seated at God’s right hand.

The story began with  God creating the world, and us …And seeing that it was good. Even when sin entered the world,   sin could not thwart Him.God  sent His Son to put on our flesh and bring us salvation, redemption.

When the soldiers crucified His Son,  fixed a sign to the top of the cross stating “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews”  in three languages,  divided his garments among themselves and cast lots for his seamless robe, when they buried Him,  even that could not thwart God’s plan.

God raised Jesus from the dead, glorified His Body with new supernatural powers that it permanently enjoys.

Jesus had  come from the Father,  descended from heaven, and on this, His last day on earth, He returned to the Father …He ascended into heaven and  is seated at the right hand of the Father!

If we’re looking for testimony,the Resurrection and the Ascension are the greatest witnesses,the ultimate affirmation of the Son by the Father. No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven… the Son of God!

The Ascension, however,  is a statement of our destiny as well. Remember our first two catechism questions:

Q: Who made you?     A: God made me.

Q: Why did God make you?

A: God made me to know Him, love Him and serve Him in this life, and be happy with Him in the next.

Though we may be sinful, limited, fall short of the glory of God … each one of us is called to share in God’s own life, to be divinized, to be seated at God’s right hand as sons and daughters redeemed by the Son.

We couldn’t have a more basic affirmation of our humanity than in the Ascension.

When Christ stripped Himself to put on our own flesh, that gave our flesh a certain dignity, that God would wear it. But our real dignity culminates in the Ascension,it’s our triumph, it’s a promise that we were created to dwell with God.

That’s what God has done for us, that’s the gift He has given  us. Salvation is God’s act of lifting us up to share His own life.

Usually we hear it at funeral masses, but wouldn’t it be more than appropriate for the Day of Ascension: Jesus saying: “In my Father’s house, there are many mansions…  I am going to prepare a place for you, but I will come again, to take you to myself, so that where I am, you also may be.”

Or His other words which give us so much hope: “This day you will be with me in paradise.”

Hope is what it’s all about.

Thank you, Bishops, for helping us pay attention to the Ascension of the Lord!