Ascension Thursday – The Homily
May is a time of graduations and of transitions. Transitions are weird times. You feel disoriented, disconnected. Jesuit Priest Father John Foley, S.J. commented on this:
At schools and universities, the students and their life-networks fly away at the end of their school year. “How much we miss them when the school year ends,” a presider at a recent mass admitted with beautiful poignancy.
Graduated students find ways to cope with their new lives apart from each other, and besides, who wants to stay in school forever?
I can remember the same thing from my own college days. There was one semester when I had to remain a few days after the other students had left. I remember the silence, the empty halls, unoccupied dorm rooms with propped open doors; broad, completely undisturbed yards of grass. Yes, we were all glad to have the year done with, but at the same time, what was it about the buildings deserted, absent the buzzing life of intermingling students for which they were created? Somehow it felt uneasy and unnatural.
I think this is a pointer to the kind of hollowness the disciples must have felt at the time of the Resurrection and after the Ascension, and especially the women who had loved Jesus so much. The passion had been the worst part, of course, but what could now fill that gaping emptiness? What sort of lives were Jesus’ followers to find after the very center of their lives had been taken away?
May, is a time of graduations and transitions. Transitions are weird times….. The Feast of the Ascension celebrates this.
St. Thomas Aquinas once said: “A great soul is not afraid of great things, it moves forward towards infinite horizons, with a humility to take into account the small things in the meantime”.
So what are the small things during times of transition? What did the women and Disciples do?
Scripture scholar Anne Osdieck provides us some guidelines:
- First they prayed. Would you feel comfortable “casting lots” about your future? Do you pray before you make important choices? Pray about the small stuff in the meantime.
- The Incarnation and Ascension, even though they deal with human, corporeal flesh, is about TRANSITIONAL realities beyond this world and its ways. It is a testimony to truths that extend further than the reach of the earth or any culture. And we’re not there yet, we’re in an in-between phase between earth and heaven. It’s weird because it’s supposed to feel weird. You’re going into a new place. The old has to die, the new doesn’t fit yet. God knows that. God know what He’s about. God knows what you’re about. Trust that. Stand on that word.
- God ain’t dead and God ain’t gone. Our Redeemer’s visible presence has passed into the sacraments. Use them.
- Avoid the tendency to try and solve the problem with ever more activity. Our primary task is not to do good works but to believe in God’s love for us revealed in Jesus Christ.
- Jesus entrusted his saving mission to “preach the gospel” to the disciples. When the gospel is effectively preached by “those who believe,” (that’s you) it is accompanied by signs.
Audio Version of the Homily is here: