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Monday, May 18, 2015

Ascension: Christ's Journey into Heaven

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
Ascension of the Lord, May 17, 2015
Saints Peter and Paul Parish, Tucson, AZ

Today we celebrate the wonderful feast of the Ascension of Our Lord where we celebrate Christ’s journey into heaven.

As we reflect on today’s celebration, we look at  our journey as Christians. The Ascension of Our Lord shows us that our lives here on Earth are temporary. We are only passing through, and our destiny is to live eternally with God in heaven.

In today’s first reading (
Acts 1:1-11), we hear that after the Resurrection, Our Lord presented himself alive to His disciples by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days. Our Lord teaches and tells them to remain there until they receive the power of the Holy Spirit.

Then, as Our Lord is being taken up, we hear that two angels appear in the sky! They say, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” In other words, these angels are saying, “Get busy! Don’t just sit here! Go to work! Go out and proclaim the Gospel!

Our Lord wanted His disciples to focus on the most important part -- proclaiming the message of  salvation! This proclamation continues with each new generation of disciples. It has been handed onto our Church for the salvation of souls until Our Lord returns at the end of time.

My brothers and sisters, today’s feast is about preparing our hearts and souls for eternal life. Through His Ascension, Our Lord has become our bridge between heaven and earth. He came to establish His kingdom on earth and has given us His church so that we can prepare our hearts and souls for when He comes again at the final resurrection.

But if we want to live in the Resurrection, our Lord tells us that we must begin now. We can’t expect to live with Our Lord for eternity if we use our minds and bodies for what is not holy  today. This is why our Lord came to earth and established His Church -- the Voice of God in the world today. He calls his children to conversion. Listen. 

At His Ascension, Our Lord commands His disciples to
“Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved. Whoever does not believe will be condemned.” 

Notice that Our Lord does not simply tell us to be baptized. He tells us that we must also believe. Baptism gives us grace and makes us members of our Lord’s flock. But, if we do not truly believe, then we  condemn ourselves. 

It is when we believe that our hearts are changed, that we that we live for God and not for the world. 

Saint Paul says in today’s second reading (Ephesians 1:17-23), “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his for us who believe.” 

Today’s feast calls us to look at the big picture. The world we live in today is passing away. Our Lord therefore calls us to set our

hearts on greater things. He wants us to focus on what is eternal. Our Lord has come to set up His kingdom on Earth, and He calls us to prepare our hearts for this Kingdom today.

The Catholic Church sees the Resurrection and Ascension of Our Lord as end-time events. Through his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus has initiated the kingdom of God. He has brought His kingdom into the world. But, His kingdom is not yet fuflilled. The kingdom of God was inaugurated in Christ, but creation doesn’t yet fully participate in it. Full participation in the kingdom of God will come at the second coming of Christ and the final resurrection of our bodies. 

We are now in the time that the Church calls, eschatological tension. It is a tension between the old age and the new age. We began the new age at Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension, but the old age continues until Our Lord returns. This is why there are so many struggles in our world today. And, as we come closer to the end of the age, this tension is becoming more intense.

At the time of Jesus there were only about 2 to 3 hundred million people on the Earth. Today we have nearly seven billion. We not only have more people, but we are experiencing a rapid increase in technology unlike we've ever seen before in modern history. Yet, even with all this technology, we do not have true peace. As a world society, we are not happy because we have turned away from the laws of God. 

We are destroying our communities through war, violence and terrorism. We are destroying our families through contraception, sterilization, abortion and divorce. We are destroying our purity through pornography,

homosexuality, promiscuity, lust and abuse. We are destroying cultures through selfishness and disregard for the poor. We are destroying our environment through greed, overdevelopment and pollution. 

My brothers and sisters, because our world has turned its back on God, we are destroying the very life that God gave us! But Our Lord wants to give us a new life, not only in the life to come but even right now today, if only we believe in Him and change our lives accordingly. 

Let us not focus our attention on a world that is passing away. Let us focus our hearts on the Ascension of Our Lord so that our hearts and souls will be lifted toward the greater meaning of life which is eternal salvation.

Don't miss Fr. Shea's sermon from last week:
Love One Another as I Have Loved You

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