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Thursday, 10 May 2012

Reflection/Homily: Ascension Thursday Year B (May 17 2012)

Theme: “You shall be my witnesses”

The solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven has always been observed as a holy day of obligation. One may begin to wonder why the Church lays much emphasis on the Ascension of Christ since he has died and conquered death with his resurrection. Has it much significance for us? Indeed the ascension of Christ gives more value to our Christian faith. It is a celebration of hope not just for the first apostles but for the entire Church. It gives us the hope that Christ has not only conquered death but has opened the gates of heaven for us so that being the first born from the dead all those who die in him will gain direct entrance into heaven.

One also wonders why Christ had to ascend into heaven physically since he did not descend from heaven physically. His physical ascension was to prove the fact that his glorified body was actually taken up to heaven with the fullness of his humanity. Thus in the ascension, we see the hypostatic union (union of the human and divine natures of Christ) being manifested. It is a confirmation that at the completion of our earthly assignment, we shall also be united body and soul and ascend into heaven to be with our Lord and master. Besides, it symbolizes Christ’s physical absence in the world.

Now that Christ had physically ascended into heaven, there is the temptation to deny his presence on earth. Today, Christ is still present in and through the Church. In Mathew 28:20 Jesus promised to be with us till the end of time. Each time we celebrate the Word and the Sacraments especially the Eucharist, we encounter Christ in a more intimate way and of course he is still present in our fellow men.

At Christ’s ascension he assumes the role of a mediator, a facilitator and a judge. He is sitting at the right hand of God to intercede for those he has redeemed and that is why the Father grants whatever that is asked in his name. As a facilitator, he has gone to make the promise of the Father come true – the descent of the Holy Spirit. He has also gone to prepare a place for us in the “many mansion in his Father’s house” (cf. Jn 14:3) so that where he is we may be. As a judge, he sits at the throne ready to judge us at the end of our lives when he will come again. In the first reading (Acts 1:1-11), the angel tells the apostles that Jesus will come back in the same way as they have seen him go. This second coming is what we regard as the parousia when he will come in glory to judge the living and the dead.

Therefore beloved brethren, today we are reminded that Christ has not just gone back to heaven but has gone to prepare rooms for us in heaven. He will certainly return to judge our fidelity to the tasks he entrusted to us and if we are qualified, we shall ascend with him where we shall reign with him in heaven. Have you taken time to evaluate you response to the demands Christ gave us before his ascension?

In the gospel reading (Mark 16:15-20) we find these demands. Jesus commands us to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News and to baptize those who believe. He gave the believers the power to perform some signs through which they will be known. At the end of the gospel narrative, we discover that the early apostles preached the gospel and the Lord confirmed their words with the signs that accompanied them. They bore witness to the Good News about the risen Lord.

Today we are invited to be witnesses to the Good News by trying our best to proclaim the Good News in words and actions. We should begin this by proclaiming it to ourselves first through constant reading of the bible. Our proclamation to others should begin by the exemplary lives we live. Our lives may be the only bible an unbeliever has to read and when we do not proclaim it well, we lose our reward. That is why the second reading (Ephesians 1:17-23) reminds us of “what hope our calling as believers holds for us, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers”. So do not lose this hope by the evil you do rather repent of them, avoid sin and proclaim the Good News by living a virtuous life. Then you can be sure that when Jesus comes again in glory, your joy will be complete. God loves you.

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