Richer Existence

Fr. Michael Guastello’s Homily June, 2, 2019

“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.”