Closer With The Father – Fr. Viet Nguyen

Fr. Viet Nguyen’s Homily May 16, 2021

“What is your mission? Have you ever thought about that? Not what you want to do with your life or how you want your life to play out, but what is your mission? The two fundamental questions that we continue to ask ourselves throughout our lives are, who am I and what am I here to do? A teacher told me that in high school and I find it to be true. It’s two fundamental questions we continue to ask ourselves throughout our lives. Who am I and what am I here to do? Our identity and our mission, the thing is our mission flows from our very identity not the other way around. Our identity doesn’t come from our mission, but our mission comes from our identity. Our identity as Christians is sons and daughters of God.

Today we will hear what our mission is. Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, Christ ascending into Heaven. Sometimes this can be a little complicated. The Nativity, the birth of Christ we understand, God coming down to be like us to dwell among us or Easter- Christ dies and is raised from the dead, but what does the Ascension mean, Christ ascending into Heaven? Some of us think that Christ is leaving us, kind of leaving us orphans once again, but that is far from the truth. An example of what the Ascension is can be explained in this. It’s kind of simplistic, but bear with me. Think of a triangle that becomes a pyramid or say a square that becomes a cube or a circle that becomes a sphere. In some ways the resurrected body or Christ ascending into Heaven is that very thing. It enters into a new dimension. It is not gone, but it is transfigured. The triangle itself isn’t gone, but it’s taken to another dimension, this pyramid or the square is not gone, but it’s become a cube. It’s not there, but it’s different. The same thing with the circle becoming a sphere. It’s transformed, transfigured into a new dimension. Christ does not leave us. The thing is, Heaven is not some place far far away like space is. In some ways we are closer to Heaven than we think. That’s why in the Our Father we say, ‘Thy kingdom come thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven.’ That what Christ is doing He calls us to follow. He is calling us to follow Him, but here in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles right before Jesus ascends his apostles ask him a question.  They ask him, ‘Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ It might seem like a strange question to ask right before Christ is ascending, but it’s a question that all Jews were wondering. If Christ is the Messiah, they believe that the Messiah would come back to gather the twelve tribes of Israel, bring the kingdom of Israel back to communion with God and so his apostles asked him that very thing. ‘Are you going to fulfill this, bring communion back to the Israelites?’ What does he say? ‘It is not for you to know the time and season.’ It’s not a very satisfying answer is it? But he says, ‘You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witness to Jerusalem throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the Earth.’ That’s our mission. Christ in some ways ascends and then he calls us to mission.

Sometimes in our lives, in our prayer lives, in our spiritual lives we want God to do everything for us. In some ways we don’t want to struggle, we don’t want to change, but we want God to work like a magician. If we ask it just happens, but the thing is, isn’t it better to participate with something than just watch from the outside? Imagine this example of living in Kansas City. In recent years we won the World Series and the Super Bowl, so the very fact that we’re in Kansas City we get to enjoy the joys of being here in that celebration. There’s a great joy there, but then what if you’re one of those fans that have always watched, always enjoyed them struggle throughout the years. When they won that joy was so much more glorious than maybe those who were just fair weather fans. Take that one more octave- maybe you were part of the team, you go through the days, the days in the days out, the struggles of playing the game, losing, wondering, worrying if we’re gonna win. The struggle is real, but when you win it’s so much more glorious because you were part of it. In some ways God is calling us to participate within the salvation of the world. God ascends into Heaven and sends the Holy Spirit among us to call us to mission. We’re each gifted with different talents. Now God is calling you to use that for the bringing in the kingdom of God. It was the twelve tribes of Israel that the Jewish people thought Jesus would bring together. The twelve apostles represent those twelve tribes and then he calls his apostles to go out. He not only calls his apostles, but he calls each one of you to go out and proclaim the Gospel to all of creation and bring it all back into relationship with God. He’s calling you to participate in the very salvation of the world. That is the significance of the Ascension that as we participate with Christ we become more like Him. We become closer with the Father. At the very end of the first reading, the apostles are looking up at where Jesus is ascending and then suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taking up from you into Heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into Heaven.’ In some ways the angels were telling the apostles, ‘What are you doing now? Go out. You have a mission now.’ And the same is with us in every single Mass. After we have the most intimate communion with Christ in the Eucharist, two men in white garments usually a priest and a deacon at the end of Mass doesn’t tell you to stay, but what do they say? ‘Go forth. The Mass has ended.’ And so we each have a mission. It’s one of the most important things that you should do and discern in your life is, ‘What is the Holy Spirit calling me to? What is God calling me to?’ Because the things of our lives, the goals, the desires we have to be happy or joyful will be fulfilled in this mission for Jesus calls us to this mission because he wants us to receive his joy and for our joy to be complete. So in these days as you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to guide you. What is God calling you today? How is he calling you to mission to bring all of creation back to Christ?