ASCENSION OF THE LORD – B Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Eph 4:1-7; 11-13; Mk 16:15-20 HOMILY – May 16, 2021 Rev. Father Gianni Passarella
One day my grandmother told me that when Apollo 11 astronauts Armstrong, Aldrin, and Collins splashed down in the Pacific, after landing on the moon, there were victory parades in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and in Europe as well. “What a celebration!” – she said – the human race had successfully completed the most significant and difficult technological achievement of all time. Then she added: “When Jesus Christ accomplished his mission of love and redemption, when he went through the cloud and landed on heaven’s shores, all of heaven broke out in celebration.” So today—the feast of the Ascension, we celebrate the triumphal return of Jesus Christ to heaven and the celebration that his mission was successfully accomplished. And of course, when a mission is successfully accomplished, there are others who share in the benefits. But what are the benefits that Jesus shares with us in this victory celebration of his ascension?
When Jesus came to earth, he was limited. He came as a baby, totally dependent on Mary and Joseph. Just like all of us, he could only be in one place at one time. He could not be in Nazareth and in Jerusalem simultaneously. If you were sick, laying on your bed in Jerusalem, hoping for help, you had to wait until he physically came to that town. But forty days after his resurrection there was a shift. In fact, even though Jesus’ ascension might not seem positive or beneficial—after all, he was taken away from us— the Lord actually moved into a new dimension; a new way of being. Since he moved from our space-time dimension to a dimension beyond space and time, that means that Jesus is now available to us anytime, anywhere. And that is very positive and beneficial. Now there is nowhere we can go where Christ’s presence and power are not immediately available. There is no time when you will call on his name that he will not respond. Now, through the Ascension, Jesus has risen up into heaven, and his glory and power extends over the whole world. So, you can be in Santa Ana, California, and call on the name of Jesus. But you can also be in Pakistan and call on his power. Wherever you are—in the emergency room, at work, on an airplane, Jesus is there for you. And I think this is the first benefit of his ascension.
And the second benefit is that, as a result of the Ascension, we are brought into an immediate sense of “now” and we are also invited to look ahead…but not behind. Think about the disciples. The First Reading tells us the disciples were staring longingly at the sky as Jesus was taken away from them up into heaven. I think they wanted Jesus back. They were nostalgic for the good times when Jesus was with them. If Jesus had put his Ascension to a vote the disciples probably would have voted eleven to zero in favor of keeping Jesus right where he was. They wanted him to stay. That is why, as the disciples were up on the mountain, looking into heaven, two angels descend to speak to them. The angels suddenly are there and say something like: “Men of Galilee, why do you keep gazing into heaven? Why are you wishing for something that used to be? Get a move on. There is a world out there to win for Christ!” A lot of people live their lives nostalgically, looking back, longing for the past. We all need to listen to those angels, because there is always a dark side to nostalgia. Nostalgia is a wonderful servant, but what a horrible master! Someone once said, “If you are not where you are, you are nowhere.” In other words, if you are not living in the present circumstances of your life, you are not really living at all. The apostle Paul once said he had learned to be happy whatever his circumstances. Let us go ahead, then! Remember the days of yesteryear, but then come back and be where you are Because if you are not, you are nowhere. And we cannot serve our Lord Jesus if we are not present. That is the message of the angels! God needs all of us—God needs Holy Angels Church here and now to be all we can be for Him among people in Orange County. Be where you are, because Jesus is exactly there waiting for you. You and I already have a home. Our home is not somewhere in the past. The home we have is God. And as much as we stay connected with God and work for building his kingdom through our church mission and ministry, we are making Holy Angels a home for all the people God already has in his mind. This is the time to believe that Jesus is where we are, because he is ascended and we celebrate that with faith. This is the time to believe that Holy Angels Church is the present and the future for our life of faith and our common ministry and to establish it. This is the time to focus on the present and the future with God’s perspective. Because this, my brothers and sisters, on the Ascension of Jesus, is the Gospel of the Lord.