• Religious Freedom Rally June 30th. • Mass at 11:45 with Archbishop Naumann • Lunch afterwards • Booths and games for kids, info and speakers for adults: 1:30-3p • Ascension Parking Lot and Parish Hall
Monsignor Stuart Swetland, President of Donnelly College
Elizabeth Kirk, J. D. Scholar, writer and national speaker on matters pertaining to the family in law, policy and the Catholic moral and intellectual tradition
Chuck Weber, Director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, former Kansas Legislator
Eddie Greim, J. D. President of local Federalist Society, secretary of the Kansas City Catholic Lawyers Guild, Member of Missouri Advisory Committee for the United States Commission on Civil Rights
Religious freedom includes two important aspects – freedom from and freedom for. “Freedom from” is probably familiar and what most of us think of as freedom. It means that we are to be free from coercion. The state is not an all powerful institution that can force people to act against their consciences. The right to be free from coercion limits the power of the state. But this freedom must be paired with a “freedom for,” a positive orientation to seeking and acting in accordance with the truth. People have both a right and a duty to seek religious truth. Freedom from coercion allows the space for the pursuit of religious truth. Religious freedom requires that a society both refrain from preventing people from living out their religion and help to create the conditions for religious expression to flourish. A free society, then, is one where people actively seek religious truth and fully live out that truth in public and private. As Pope Francis recently said in Cuba, the Church must have “the freedom and all the means needed to bring the proclamation of the Kingdom to the existential peripheries of society.” Human beings are social creatures. Religious freedom means that not only individuals but also families, communities, and institutions enjoy the space to live out religious convictions. Parents have a fundamental right to teach their children their faith. Companies that seek to contribute to the common good by their responsible business practices should be encouraged. Religious freedom belongs to groups as well as individuals. This social dimension of religious freedom entails that religious freedom includes the freedom to practice our faith in public. In our culture, some tend to think that religious liberty means only that individuals can worship without interference from the government. This understanding is inadequate. Religious schools, hospitals, and charities should be able to operate in accordance with their faith.
“Today we celebrate the solemnity of the Holy Trinity. The Trinity is one of the great mysteries of our faith. Our theology tells us that we have three persons in one God and so it is reasonable for us to ask, ‘How are we to make sense of this?’ Well, like any mystery, while we can’t fully understand it, we can know something about it and it is Jesus Christ himself who is our point of reference. It is Jesus who gives us a window into the Holy Trinity. Now the first step for us to recognize is that the Trinity is a relationship of love. English writer and theologian G.K. Chesterton wrote that, ‘The basis of the Holy Trinity is relationship and at the heart of this relationship is love.’ In his first letter, John the evangelist tells us that God is love that this is who God is that he doesn’t just have love. He doesn’t just show love or give love, but God is love itself. What this means is that God is at the same time a lover, the Father, a beloved Son and the shared love that is between them is the Holy Spirit. In another part of scripture Jesus’ disciples ask him to tell them about his father and he says to them, ‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.’ Our Catholic theology has interpreted this statement and others to mean that while the persons of the Trinity are distinct, wherever one person of the Trinity is, there the entire Trinity is present and when one person of the Trinity is acting the other two persons are acting as well. They do not operate independent of one another, so when we take a look at a crucifix we see only the Son. We see only the second person of the Trinity, but the entire Trinity is present. ‘Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.’
Now let’s take a look at our Gospel for today. Jesus tells us, ‘everything that belongs to the Father belongs to him (Jesus)’ And what belongs to Jesus he will declare to his disciples. That’s us. What Jesus is doing here is he is giving us even more insight into this relationship he has with his Heavenly Father. He’s outlining for us an estate plan, if you will, and that we will receive an inheritance. This inheritance of course is Heaven. It is eternal life with the Holy Trinity. Jesus also promises us in our gospel today that we will be led, that we will be guided by the Spirit of Truth. He says, ‘When he comes, The Spirit of Truth, he will guide you to all truth. He does not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears.’ In other words, he will lead and guide and speak truth in union with the Father and the Son. Now this idea of truth, things being objectively true, is sometimes lost in our 21st century American culture. The notion that there is objective truth is not always popular in our society today. Some in our society think that truth is relative. They’ll say, ‘Well if that’s true for you, fine but that’s not true for me and what’s true for me is true for me, but it doesn’t have to be true for you.’ Some people think that we can even vote on the truth. Well I’ll tell you this, God never intended for eternal truth to be determined by democratic vote. It doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t work that way. The truth is what it is eternally.
I’ll give you an example of earthy truth. So this here that’s in front of me, this is a microphone. So, I observe this. My mind comes into conformity with the object under consideration and my mind says, ‘Ah, microphone.’ This is a pulpit. This is a watch that I’m wearing, okay these things all have truths in and of themselves, so I look at this and my mind says, ‘club sandwich.’ This is not a club sandwich. Doesn’t matter if I think that it’s a club sandwich. Doesn’t matter if I hope that it’s a club sandwich. Doesn’t matter that I pray that it’s a club sandwich. It is a microphone, so this is an earthy truth, so I’m going to try to make the conversion to eternal truth. Here’s some examples of eternal truths from God:
Marriage is between one man and one woman.
Human persons are all made in the image and likeness of God whether they are born or unborn whether they are citizens of the United States or whether they are citizens of another country, it doesn’t matter. All persons are loved by God. They are ordered toward God and have an inherent dignity as a result of it and when that dignity is violated in any way shape or form, God is violated because we’re made in his image and likeness.
These eternal truths are laid down by God and are given to us out of love from God and in my mind that’s the key to accepting some of these things even when we might disagree, even when we might disagree even when we might not fully understand them, that our God is a loving God and he wants what’s best for all of us. If there is something in your own life that you’re struggling with such as one of the Church’s teachings I invite you to take it to prayer. Pray about it. Talk to God about it in very real and stark terms. Ask for clarity. Ask for help. Ask for the Spirit of Truth that we read about in our Gospel today. Spend time with our Lord in front of the Blessed Sacrament talking to him about whatever it is, whatever it is. Research the Church’s position. Study the Church’s position. Look at the history behind it. Look at the theology behind it and try to get a sense of the reasoning that goes into the Church’s teaching. If there is a Church teaching that you’re struggling with that you disagree with, I invite you, no I encourage you to do those things.
Pope Benedict in his encyclical Deus Caritas Est translated from the Latin, God is Love, reminds us that our faith first and foremost is not about a set of moral teachings or rules, it is about a relationship with God. Our God desires a real relationship with you personally and invites all of us to share in the relationship of the Trinity, a relationship that is love itself.”
“This evening we are invited to enter into a reflection upon that inner-life of God that God is not an impersonal force, but rather within God is community and life and in one God there are those three persons:
The Father to whom has ascribed creation.
The Son, the word who is the truth of the Father the perfect reflection of the Father himself who is our redeemer, our savior.
The Holy Spirit generated through the love of the Father and Son that personification of love it’s very self.
And so we are invited to recognize that there is a dynamic dimension into the life of God and it’s done not so that we’ll have a mathematical problem to think about, but rather that we will be in some way insightful into the mystery of a God that goes way beyond our ability to understand, our ability to comprehend, but God does give us these insights so that we may know something about God’s dignity in our relationship with God himself for God reveals himself to us as Father, Son and Spirit so that we may truly know God as God the Father that we will know God as the Word, the truth become flesh in Jesus that we will know God as the gift of love that power of the Holy Spirit and that we enter into a relationship with each person of the Trinity. Again it’s a question that is not there to baffle the mind, but rather to inspire the heart to call us to something deeper in an appreciation of who we are in relationship to God for the revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit comes about for our salvation. It comes about so that we may know how we share in that very life of the Trinity that we are baptised into relationship with the Father, the Son and the Spirit that that’s what the word baptism means is to be immersed into relationship. We were baptised in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We were immersed into a relationship in which we can know God truly as our Father, the Son truly as our saviour, our redeemer, our truth, the Holy Spirit who is the spirit of love who transforms our own minds and hearts and so it is that question for each of us, ‘Am I really growing in a relationship with each person of the Trinity?’
Sometimes when I ask people about their prayer life, I find that it’s pretty truncated. A lot of people will say, ‘Well I just pray to God. That’s it. I just pray to God.’ Now it’s not bad to pray to God. I’m not against that, so don’t misunderstand me here, but just praying to God as God really neglects the deeper relationships to which we are called and some people will say, ‘Well I just pray to God the Father’ or ‘I pray to the Holy Spirit’ or ‘I pray to God the Son, but I kinda leave the other ones out.’ Once again we are truncating our relationship with God. If we want to have a full relationship with God it means that we grow in relationship with each one of the persons of the Trinity that yes, we come to know Jesus who is truth that absolute truth of the Father that we come to know the gift of the Spirit that spirit of love that spirit that transforms our lives that we come to know God the Father as the creator as the one who truly brings about our life and is the ultimate destiny of what we are about and the journey of this life and so I encourage you to kinda think about your own prayer life. You know, the Mass is the greatest prayer that we offer and the Mass is very, very trinitarian. I’m not sure how often we avert to this, but you know it begins with the sign of the cross. It ends with the sign of the cross, so our profession of faith in the Trinity are kind of the bookends for the whole Mass and then the prayers of the Mass are very much Trinitarian. The Gloria that we just sung a few minutes ago is first of all, God the Father, then God the Son, then God the Holy Spirit. The Creed that we will profess in a few minutes is Trinitarian. It speaks about God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit. The prayers, the opening prayers of the Mass are usually addressed to God the Father through God the Son in union with the Holy Spirit. The great prayer, the Eucharistic prayer is a prayer of praise addressed to God the Father through God the Son in union with the Holy Spirit as the priest raises up the body and the blood of Christ, the sacrifice of Christ. It’s very Trinitarian and we are invited to enter more deeply into that relationship through Christ with the Father and the Holy Spirit in Holy Communion and then we are sent forth in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit so our prayer is truly called to be Trinitarian. It is called to be reflective of that mystery of God’s love. God gives us this beautiful insight into his own being into who He is, what He is about and how that can bring about our salvation and our eternal happiness and so we are invited to truly reflect upon this and maybe to expand our prayer life a bit maybe to reflect on how we can pray to one or other persons of the Trinity that maybe we don’t pray to that much but we are called to truly appreciate the fullness of the mystery of God in which we participate.
And of course this weekend we celebrate Father’s Day. It’s an appropriate time for us to celebrate Father’s Day in union with the Trinity because the Trinity truly begins with God the Father and God the Father’s fatherhood is reflected in human fatherhood and so we honor all fathers today. We thank you for the reflection of that creative life and love of God that is brought about in your relationships with your children, being creative and nurturing that gift of life. What a tremendous blessing fathers are as fathers and mothers join together in sharing that gift of life and of nurturing that life. What a tremendous blessing that is and so we are grateful for you who are fathers for your call and your response to that call to be reflective of the love of God himself and to teach your children the truth of Jesus to teach your children the love of the Holy Spirit to share with them that beautiful relationship with God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, amen.”
“Today we celebrate the conclusion of the Easter season, but a whole opening up to a new phase in the liturgical and our spiritual life as we are invited to truly welcome the Holy Spirit, that Spirit that descended upon the Apostles on Pentecost that Spirit that continues to live within us and among us that we are called to truly recognize and cooperate with the workings of the Holy Spirit and so this Pentecost Sunday is an opportunity for us to come to a deeper awareness to the presence and the action of the Holy Spirit within our lives and within our world. There are many images of the Holy Spirit and I’m always reminded on Pentecost and I’ll admit that this is an old story, but of a particular pastor who one time wanted to be more dramatic on Pentecost and he wanted to really emphasize to his congregation the presence of the Holy Spirit and so he got his custodian the day before and he showed the custodian this dove and there was a dove there in this little cage and the dove was there and he said, ‘Now Jack what I want you to do is tomorrow during my sermon when I say, The Lord sent down the Holy Spirit, I want you to release the dove and then the dove is gonna fly all over the congregation and the people will really be impressed with the reminder of the presence of the Holy Spirit.’ He said, ‘Ok Reverend, ok.’ So the next day the pastor gets up and he’s preaching and he comes to that dramatic moment in his sermon and he says, ‘And the Lord sent down his Holy Spirit!’ Nothing happened and he said, ‘And at that time the Lord sent down his Holy Spirit.’ Nothing happened so he looks up in the choir loft and there’s the poor custodian and he says, ‘Sorry Reverend, the cat done ate the Holy Spirit.’ That is a reminder never to use props in church, but also it’s a reminder that yes, one of the images of the Holy Spirit is the dove and the dove can be that symbol of peace and certainly the work of the Spirit is that of peace of bringing about a wholeness to our hearts. There’s many images though of the Holy Spirit. Another one is the word dunamis in Greek which means dynamite, power. The Holy Spirit is truly power it’s the power of God bringing about transformation and new life. Another is pneuma. Pneuma means breath and pneuma reminds us that the Holy Spirit is as close to us as our own breath is that through our baptism our confirmation, the Holy Spirit has been poured into our bodies into our very lives and that we should be aware of that and just as the breath is so important and purifying as we exhale carbon dioxide also it is crucial that we bring oxygen into our bodies and that Holy Spirit truly enlivens the whole body for truly the soul is the life principal for this physical body of our so the Holy Spirit is the life principal for the body of Christ that was referred to in our second reading today that we are all part of the body of Christ because we share in the very life of the Holy Spirit.
Another image in scripture for the Holy Spirit is ruach and ruach means wind, a loud rushing wind and that’s an appropriate symbol for the Holy Spirit because the Holy Spirit is like the wind. You know you never see the wind. If anybody here has ever seen the wind, let me know afterwards, but we never see the wind, we see the effects of the wind. We see the leaves, the branches swaying, we see the grass waving, we see the grass waving, we see something blowing across the parking lot so we see the effects of the wind, but we really don’t see the wind and so we are reminded that the Holy Spirit is known more by its results than by particularly direct insight or seen and the Holy Spirit truly wants to enter in and to transform our lives to transform our minds and our hearts to transform us and to make us into new people and that is the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit. St. Paul in his letter to the Galatians talks about the fruits of the Holy Spirit and these are signs of the Holy Spirit within our own lives and as we are growing in these qualities we are truly growing spiritually we are experiencing the effects of the Holy Spirit transforming us and hopefully we are all growing in these, but he says, ‘The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generocity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ Those are the fruits of the Holy Spirit and we are all challenged to be open to that Spirit that can transform us to make those things ever more alive within our own lives that fidelity to Christ Jesus that openness to that life that Christ brings us.
This past week someone sent me something, a little piece on the Holy Spirit and I thought it had some nice insights so I’ll share it with you.
‘The Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised to his followers is the great gift of God. Without the Holy Spirit of Jesus we can do nothing, but in and through his Spirit we can live free, joyful, and courageous lives.We cannot pray, but the Spirit of Christ can pray in us. We cannot create peace and joy, but the Spirit of Christ can fill us with a peace and joy that is not of this world.We cannot break through the many barriers that divides races, sexes, and nations, but the Spirit of Christ unites all people in an all embracing love of God. The spirit of Christ burns away our many fears and anxieties and sets us free to move wherever we are sent. This is the great liberation of Pentecost.’
This feast of Pentecost invites us to a deeper awareness of the Holy
Spirit within our lives and a deeper openness to the Holy Spirit in
prayer. I hope that we pray daily to the Holy Spirit. My experience
though is that for most of us the Spirit is the neglected person of the
trinity. We pray to God the Father, we pray to Jesus, but we don’t pray
as much to the Holy Spirit and yet we live in the age of the Holy
Spirit for the Spirit has been sent forth. The Spirit dwells within us
and among us bringing about new life.
know the cat doesn’t eat the Holy Spirit, but there are things that can
destroy the life of the Spirit within us and those things we can really
need to be careful of:
That complacency that may enter into our spirituality
That sense of embracing one or other sin and not striving to overcome it
There’s divisions that may be there that we hold on to rather than allow healing to take place
The Spirit of this world that is so often in contrast to the truth and the love that God has revealed to us
Those are the things that can destroy our own life in the Spirit, but through the gift of the Spirit we are called to new life, to greater holiness, to truly continue to grow in that Spirit of Jesus, truly the Spirit of truth, the spirit of love. The spirit that gives us already that gift of everlasting life.”
“Sometimes when we describe a person with great talents we refer to them as being ‘gifted’. He is a gifted athlete. She is a gifted musician, but to use the word gift implies that their talents are not solely based on their own merit. Someone had to give them the gift. The person received the gift from someone. Our lives ourselves are gifts from God. We have received life from God and from our parents. Without them, we would not be there. Of course a gift implies that there is a relationship between the gift giver and the person who has received the gift. A gift implies affection, appreciation, acknowledgement. If a gift is given with the expectation of something in return then it is not really a gift. Today, on this feast of Pentecost, the Easter season comes to a close and we celebrate the gift of the Church being born when the Father and Son poured out the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles giving them their mission to proclaim the Gospel to the rest of the world. Since that time, the Holy Spirit has given gifts to the rest of the Church so that it may be faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ. In fact, the books of the Bible themselves are inspired works of the Holy spirit.
In our second reading from St. Paul today, we are reminded that the mere presence and actions of the Holy Spirit are often perceived as gifts. When we think of our Trinitarian God we associate creation with the Father and redemption of humanity with the Son, but it is the Holy Spirit who continues to animate the Church to sanctify us, to inspire us, to guide us. Now to be theologically precise, when one person of the Trinity acts, the other two persons are acting in concert, yet we do attribute these things, sanctification, inspiration, bringing unity to being works of the Holy Spirit. I’ll give you some examples. During the consecration of the Eucharist at Mass when the priest extends his hands over the bread and wine, we call this the epiclesis, this is a calling down of the Holy Spirit and so I’ll invite you when we get to that part in the Mass today to listen when I have my hands over the bread and wine and then there is a part in the Mass called the doxology when the priest raises the chalice and the patton of the body and blood of Christ and he prays, ‘Through him and with him and in him Oh God almighty Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit all glory and honor is yours forever and ever.’ Unity of the Holy Spirit and then finally as part of the prayer of absolution in the sacrament of reconciliation the priest says that ‘Jesus has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins. This brings us to our Gospel today in which we are reminded of one of the Holy Spirit’s greatest gifts of all and this is the gift of reconciliation and forgiveness. So, our Gospel brings us back to Easter Sunday night and the Apostles have locked themselves in a room for fear of the authorities so remember Jesus has just been crucified and as his followers they think that they might be next in line and so they are locked up they are held up in this room and Jesus, the risen Jesus comes through the locked doors and he stands in front of them and he says to them, ‘Where were you guys? What happened to you? You guys left me for dead. I can’t depend on you for anything! What’s wrong with you people?!?’ He doesn’t say any of this does he? Quite the opposite. He says, ‘Peace be with you.’ And he says this two ties if you go back and reread the text he says, ‘Peace be with you.’ Why? Because he wants to emphasize his love and forgiveness for them not their mistakes. He wants them not to dwell on their sins, but to dwell on his mercy, to dwell on his compassion and to dwell on his desire for reconciliation with him. Friends, the same thing goes for us as well. When we make mistakes, when we mess up, when we turn our backs on God through sin, he doesn’t want us to dwell on any of this. He wants to forgive us. He wants us to be reconciled with him. All we have to do is ask. All we have to do is approach him with a sincere and contrite heart. Jesus says to his apostles, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit whose sins you forgive are forgiven them and whose sins you retain are retained.’ This by the way is the primary text that the Church points to for Jesus having instituted the sacrament of reconciliation. You see, forgiveness is one of the main reasons Christ instituted the Church. Forgiveness is one of the major business segments that the Church is involved in if I could use that line of terminology. Yes we are involved in social justice works to be sure. We run food pantries and soup kitchens, the Church has run hospitals to take care of the sick. We run schools to educate our children, but long before the Church ran hospitals or schools or soup kitchens, the church was in the business of forgiveness and reconciliation. These are gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit and not just reconciliation with us and God, but reconciliation with one another. In our Gospel today Jesus connects reconciliation with himself and reconciliation with others. This is a great gift. If there are relationships in our lives that are in need of reconciliation, the Holy Spirit is prepared to breathe new life into them. Maybe we need to be reconciled with a son or daughter. Maybe we need to be reconciled with a brother or a sister or a parent or a neighbor or a former spouse or a coworker or a fellow student. I invite you to ponder that question today. Who do I need to be reconciled to? Who do I need to pray for? Maybe, who do I need to reach out to? As we come to the end of the Easter season today as we celebrate Pentecost, the Holy Spirit may well be prompting us to take advantage of the gift of reconciliation with someone, a gift that the Spirit is willing to help us with in that reconciliation if we are open to receiving it, if we are open to accepting the gift.”
“So today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension, the namesake of our parish and I think it’s special when a parish has the opportunity to celebrate the feast of its namesake because this is how we identify ourselves to the rest of the Christian Community. We are Church of the Ascension. These celebrations only happen once a year and so it provides us with an opportunity to pray and reflect upon all that it means for us and our faith. Today, the Church has given us readings from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of Luke. Now Luke is actually the author of both of these books The Acts and the Gospel that bears his name, but it’s worth noting that he treats the ascension of our Lord differently in each of his two books. If you go back and look at the readings our first reading today from Acts, Luke tells us the Ascension occurred 40 days after Easter, but in his Gospel Luke describes how Jesus appeared to his apostles on Easter Sunday night, spoke to them, ate with them and then on Easter Sunday night, led them out to Bethany where he Ascended into Heaven. So this begs the question, which of these events is the real ascension? Did it happen 40 days after the resurrection as we are told in Acts of the Apostles or did it happen on Easter Sunday night as we are told in Luke’s Gospel? Well I don’t think we know for sure, but I also don’t think that we necessarily need to know either. What is important for us is what the Ascension means for us in our lives. There’s a scripture scholar who tried to deal with this discrepancy, there’s probably been multiple ones, but one that I ran across as I was looking at the readings and preparing for this weekend and he distinguishes between two different lines of thought on the Ascension in the early days of the Church: one he calls the visible ascension, the other he calls the essential ascension and so I’m going to try to outline these for you as best I can.
The first he calls the visible ascension this is the ascension in which Jesus went around appearing to his disciples for forty days and when the forty days were up, these appearances pretty much stopped. This visible ascension that took place gave the apostles the certainty and assurance that Jesus was in fact taken up into Heaven and then the other ascension, this ascension he calls the essential ascension, this was not visible to anyone and he compares this to when someone dies for example and their soul is separated from their body and enters into eternal life. No one sees this. This is what he calls the essential ascension. The ascension that no one sees, but in the case of our Lord however, he was taken up, body and soul, to be with his father in Heaven. He calls this the essential ascension in which Jesus was lifted up beyond this world into Heaven. This return to the Father would take place on Easter Sunday night in which Jesus entered into a fuller, richer existence and it was his death and resurrection that led him there. Jesus passed from life in this world to life with the Father. So, what does this mean for all of us? Well as Jesus was on his way to the father in Heaven so are we. What we celebrate today in the Ascension of our Lord body and soul into Heaven is what God has planned for each and everyone of us today. God’s invitation extends to all of us. Now in other parts of the Gospel, Jesus is clear that not everyone will accept this invitation. In fact, there will be some who will reject this invitation, but those who accept it will share life with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in Heaven for all eternity and this is made possible by virtue of our baptism. When we are baptized we are made sons and daughters of our heavenly father. Now at the moment of our conception, at the very time we come into existence we are creatures of God. We are human persons. We are made in the image and likeness of God. We are loved by God and we are ordered toward God, but we are not yet his sons and daughters. Before our baptism we are simply creatures of God. Now remember that Jesus, we talk of Jesus as being the Father’s only son and he is the Father’s only natural son. See we are not his natural children. We are not his natural children. We are not his natural sons and daughters if you’re familiar with this terminology, so it is our baptism that makes us sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. It is through our baptism that we are incorporated into Christ and when we are baptized we share life in Christ. We are united to him and therefore we share in his risen life. Of course, Jesus’ life continues to flow through us when we receive the Eucharist when we receive the other sacraments, through prayer, through good works. Sometimes the risen life of Christ that is in us is something that we are able to sense. We call these God moments, these moments when we are able to see God working in our lives, but very often we miss it. We go through our day, we go through our week and we miss what God is trying to tell us or reveal to us, but even in these times when we miss these things, the risen life if Jesus Christ is still in us so long as we remain united to him and so today as we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven, the namesake of our community, let us ask God to help us to recognize those moments throughout the day and week when he is communicating to us or trying to reveal something to us always remembering that we are loved by God, that we are His sons and daughters and that we share life with the risen Christ who we celebrate his ascension into Heaven today.”
“This feast of the Ascension of the Lord is certainly one that is personal for us since this is our patronal feast and as people of the Ascension we are called to reflect upon the real meaning of this feast as one of completion, finality, and hope. You know the feast of the ascension really celebrates the fulfillment of the whole mystery of Christ’s incarnation. Just a few months ago we celebrated Christmas, the fact of the word become flesh in Christ Jesus as that humble babe of Bethlehem, but the whole purpose of the incarnation of God becoming flesh in that humble child was in order that we might know the gift of eternal salvation. We reflected upon not just the infancy, but more importantly the public ministry of Jesus and how through his death and resurrection the paschal mystery he’s brought about the redemption, the forgiveness of our sins and a whole new life of grace and now we come to this completion time where Jesus physically leaves this earth. He’s ascended. He’s taken up into the fullness of the glory of the right hand of the father. It is the summation, the completion of his life, for Christ entered into our humanity so that we might enter into his divinity, that we are called to be adopted sons and daughters of God through our identification with Christ Jesus. This is a feast in which we celebrate the fact that in a sense, all of us are already in Heaven because of our union with Christ. One of the best and greatest images for me for the ascension is one that you younger folks will not remember that well, but some of us older ones will and that was when the first man walked on the moon. There was that lunar module that landed on the moon and that dramatic moment when there was that step down from the module onto the moon and really it was a transfiguring moment for people who were able to watch that on television. It was one of those dramatic moments and the words of that astronaut, ‘One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.’ Because all of us felt that somehow we were on the moon. Humanity was there therefore we were all there. Well as we celebrate this ascension of Jesus into Heaven, we celebrate the fact that Jesus truly has taken us into Heaven as well that there is that promise there already of humanity is in God’s glory. Humanity is truly sharing in the joy of Heaven and we ourselves already are beginning to share in that life. No, we have a long way to go before we enjoy it fully, but we know that this is our destiny that this is our purpose is that ultimately it is that we will share in God’s life ternally and that’s one of the things that we keep in mind as we live each day, the dignity that we have, but also that call that we have to eternal joy, to eternal union with Christ in the presence in the Father and the Spirit as well, but in the meantime there’s a challenge for us. We have this beautiful stained glass of the Ascension right behind me and that particular piece came from the Church of the Annunciation in Kansas City, MO and certainly it is a masterful work of art, but it reminds us there of Jesus ascending into Heaven and it’s interesting that the apostles and Mary for the most part are looking up, following with their eyes Jesus ascending into Heaven and then we have those words in the first reading today where it says that two Angels came and they said, ‘Why are you looking up to Heaven? He’s going to come back, don’t worry about that, but you go do your job.’ That’s basically what the angels were saying and for all of us we have that job of being witnesses of being witnesses to the love of Christ, to the love of God manifested in Jesus in the word become flesh in the act of salvation, his love for us in dying and rising that we are called to be witnesses to that, but we don’t do it just on our own power for just like the early disciples they were told to wait for the Holy Spirit to come and to be with them. Well we have received that gift of the Spirit and so we are challenged to truly be people of the Holy Spirit. We look up to Heaven, but we also have our feet on the ground. We are called to live each day with an awareness of our dignity and the ultimate call of our lives, but we are aware that we are called to witness by our daily lives to be witnesses of hope to others. This feast of the Ascension is a great feast of hope because it helps us to realize that no matter what we may experience in this life whatever disappointments or challenges that we may have, even the reality of illness and death will never overcome us, but rather it is life over death, it is eternity over time, it is that call to the wondrous vocation, the goal that each of us has within our life to share in the life of the ascended Christ Jesus. How blessed we are for we are a people who truly know the love of God for we know the purpose and the meaning, the direction of our lives. We are but challenged to follow it.”
“For the last few weeks we have read from the Gospel of John and in particular from the last supper discourse of Jesus. Today is the sixth Sunday of Easter and the Gospel readings keep circling back to that night before Jesus died and why is this? Why is it that the Church keeps bringing us back to that farewell address of Jesus? Well it’s because of the depth of the theology and the summation of the Christian life.
You know, the Last Supper discourse is five chapters long in John’s Gospel. His entire Gospel is twenty one chapters long so almost 25% of all the Gospel of John is devoted to that two or three hour discourse on the night before Jesus died. Jesus was taking this time this very solemn time on this evening where he knew that the next day his Passion would begin. Immediately after he would leave this solemnity, this solemn night, his Passion would begin so it was important to him to bring it all together. The apostles had been with him for three years. They’d followed him, they’d listen to him. He taught them. They witnessed his miracles and now Jesus would lay it all out the night before he died. He tries to prepare them for him not being around for his death, resurrection, ascension to Heaven. That night he intimately shares with them his body and blood. He washes their feet. The master washes the feet of the servants. He shares his heart with them. He tells them that he’s going to his father’s house where he will prepare a room for them. He gives them a new commandment, ‘You are to love one another as I have loved you.’ He speaks eloquently the need to stay connected to him. He uses the metaphor of the vine and the branches. ‘I am the vine, you are the branches.’ He tells them that the Father and he are one and he is the way and the truth and the life and he tells that that there’s no greater love that one can have than to lay down one’s life for a friend and then he looks at them and he tells them, ‘You are my friends.’ He prays for them and he prays for those who will follow them. That’s us. He prays for us. He prays for the world. He prays for the Church. He prays that it always be one and yet, the apostles don’t seem to get it. They seem to be clueless. Peter asks, Lord where are you going? Thomas asks, ‘How will we know the way?’ And Phillip asks him, ‘Lord show us the father and that will be enough.’ Jesus tells Phillip, ‘Have you not been with me all this time?’ It doesn’t seem to be sinking in and now we come to our Gospel reading. In the verse just preceding our Gospel reading we hear another question. This time it’s from Judas, not Judas the betrayer, but the other Judas known as Jude. He asks Jesus immediately before this gospel reading, ‘Why just reveal yourself to us? Why don’t you reveal yourself to the whole world?’ I think he spoke these words that the other apostles were also thinking that if you are who you say you are then do something spectacular. Squash this tyranny of the Romans. Use your powers to subdue these tyrants and we hear these words in the Gospel today, ‘Whoever loves me will keep my word and my father will love him and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.’ Jesus tells them that it is only through love that he will reveal himself to them and it’s love that he reveals himself to us and then he tells them very intimately that he has come not just to pass by but he has come to dwell with them to abide with them. Jesus then goes on realizing that they’re not really getting it. Knowing their limited understanding, their weak human nature, he makes a promise that the Father will send an advocate, a helper, the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit will teach them and remind them of everything that he told them. Think of the love Jesus had for those apostles. Think of his love for you and I. He loves us so much. He knows our nature for he was born of a woman. He lived a human life. He knew temptation. He knew sorrow and pain and he promised his apostles and he promises us that he has come not to be a figure head, a CEO if you will. He is not a distant person to look at and look up to, no he dwells with us, he abides with us, Jesus is alive. He is with us in the gift of the Eucharist.
Easter Season is winding down. Jesus will soon ascend to Heaven and sit at the right hand of his father yet he promised in his last will and testament of that night before he died that he would not leave us orphans for he has given us the Holy Spirit and he’s given us those consoling words, ‘Do not be afraid.’
You know yesterday here at the Church of the Ascension, six young men were ordained into the priesthood. Some of you may have been here. It was a joyous occasion. I didn’t count them but there were 70 or 80 priests right up here around the altar. It was too crowded for an old deacon to be up here so I was sitting over there taking it all in and it was a beautiful, beautiful thing and there was one person that came to my mind and I was glad that there was one person who didn’t show up and that would be the state fire marshal. As beautiful as all of it was I was especially moved to see how many young people were in attendance, how many families brought their young children to this, 2 ½ hours. I think it was the best 2 ½ hours that could happen in the world yesterday. It was a beautiful thing. It gave me hope for the future of the church and it all goes back to God’s love for us and his desire to dwell within us. His love for those twelve bewildered men who he did not give up on 2,000 years ago, those men who changed, the Holy Spirit came to them and they gave us the Church, the Church that we know today. Jesus gave himself in the Eucharist. He sent us the Holy Spirit. This is a Gospel of hope. He continues to guide the Church. The Holy Spirit continues to guide the Holy Church in this very treacherous world in this very treacherous time. Yes, it is a time not to be afraid.”
“During this Easter season we are invited to reflect ever more personally upon the words of Christ particularly that were shared at the last supper. In John’s Gospel at the Last Supper Jesus really pours out his heart. He really talks to the disciples and to all of us about his mission and about what he was about and why he was going to die, but he would rise and then share with us the gift of life, the gift of eternal life and so our Gospel today is part of that Last Supper discourse and it’s one in which Jesus first of all promises that if we love him, he and the Father will come and dwell within us, that abiding presence of God within our own lives that we truly have that presence of the Lord within our own bodies within our own Spirit and that is a beautiful promise that is given there, that abiding presence of God with us. What a great dignity we have. What a great mission we have. What a great future we have because of that intimate relationship to which we are called with the Father and the Son dwelling within us through the power of the Holy Spirit, that Holy Spirit that was poured forth into our hearts in baptism, that Holy Spirit in which we were confirmed in Confirmation, that Holy Spirit that continually abides with us, that that is the promise of Jesus that we truly abide with God and God abides with us and that’s the reason that we are called into an ever deeper intimacy with each of the persons of the Trinity, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and then Jesus goes on and he makes a great promise. He says, ‘My peace is what I will give to you.’ And the very first words after the resurrection when Jesus appears to the disciples he says, ‘Peace be with you’ but he says, ‘but not as the world gives peace do I give peace.’ And that’s an interesting statement. It may be that the world’s idea of peace is a cessation of hostilities as long as we’re not throwing bombs or rockets at each other, then we must be at peace. Well Jesus said, ‘No, the peace that he gives is something different.’ The peace that he gives is something that enters deep into our minds and our hearts and it’s a much more positive understanding of who we are and what we are about. That peace that Jesus gives is one that is brought about by the Holy Spirit, that spirit of God that enables us to know that all will work out well, that peace that invites us to a deep trust in God’s providence and his care and Jesus goes on and he says, ‘Don’t let your hearts be troubled.’ Don’t worry, don’t be anxious. Anxiety though is one of the real problems that many of us confront within our lives. We’re anxious about many things. Anxiety is one of the pervasive issues of our culture and our society, but Jesus says, ‘Do not be anxious.’ Have faith in Him. Have faith in His providence. Do not be anxious because all things can work together for those who trust in God and even researchers will say that 90% of the stuff we’re anxious about never takes place. It never happens, so we’re anxious for totally wrong reasons and most of the other 10% we have no control over and so it’s not really worth getting anxious about because the Lord wants us to live with a sense of peace that he’s truly with us even in the most challenging times in our life that we can live with that sense of peace that he brings to our minds and to our hearts. That’s the promise that Jesus gives us. It means entering more deeply into a relationship of trust. Not trust that everything is going to go perfectly, not a trust that says oh there’s never going to be a problem, there’s never going to be difficulties, but that trust that says that God is with us through it all that God brings us His peace. He ensures that it will all work out ultimately not just for God’s good, but for all of our good and so we are invited to enter into more deeply into that peace of Christ Jesus. At every Eucharist that we celebrate we turn to those around us and we say, ‘Peace of Christ be with you.’ And by the way you don’t just say, ‘Peace be with you.’ That’s inadequate. It’s ‘Peace of Christ be with you.’ And that’s not just a greeting, that’s a prayer. It’s a prayer that Christ’s peace may truly be with those around us with members of our families, with members of this parish community, with all those with whom we share this human journey that the peace of Christ may truly be within our lives and within our hearts, that peace of Christ that brings about a great transformation that peace of Christ that brings about eternal joy and so as we draw closer to the end of this Easter season, we are invited to reflect upon God’s promise to us that abiding presence in the Eucharist that abiding presence within our own hearts and minds, that abiding presence that dispels anxiety and worries that abiding presence that brings us His peace. Peace of Christ be with you.”