Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, May 21
May We Always Embrace and Live the Faith with Which God Has Filled Our Hearts, So That We Will Find Ourselves Rising One Day in the Wonder and Awe of Our Own Ascension into His Heavenly Kingdom.
“…as they were looking on, [Jesus] was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” – words which we find in today’s First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven, an event which occurred, as Scripture tells us, forty days after His Resurrection. And our Lord’s Ascension should give each of us pause to reflect upon our own mortality, and what awaits us after our last breath and our final heartbeat in this life.
I am sure that each one of us, who is old enough, has experienced a personal death, be it a grandparent or parent, aunt or uncle, brother or sister, spouse or child. Physical death is a reality of life, and not one of us can ever escape its ultimate hold which it has upon us.
How we deal with death, and what comes after it, is fairly well determined by our faith, and how central our faith has become in the way we live our lives. Christianity teaches us that there is a Heaven and a Hell. The Church teaches us that our eternity is determined by how we live this life of faith which we profess, and the willing observance of God’s Commandments and the Precepts of His Church.
In our Readings for today, we are given a glimpse of what becomes our own possibility, for we are witnesses to the bodily Ascension of our Savior into His Heavenly Kingdom.
In our First Reading, we find Jesus, just prior to ascending to His Father, telling His Apostles to wait in Jerusalem for their Baptism by the Holy Spirit – “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak…”
The Ascension marks the end of Jesus’ physical time here on Earth among His disciples, and the time of the Holy Spirit and the beginnings of Christ’s Church is about to commence.
And in our Gospel today from the Book of Matthew, we hear our Lord giving His disciples their final instruction, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”
And in the Gospel of Luke, we read that the disciples “…returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.”
What a magnificent scene this must have been – seeing our Lord lifted up in all His Glory to be seated at the right hand of His Father and ours!
Today, we celebrate this faith which we hold so dear to our hearts – that, one day, we too shall be lifted up from this vale of tears, so that we may also be in union with the Most Blessed Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – together with our Blessed Mother and all the holy saints whom we honor each day!
What an awesome wonder the angels in Heaven must enjoy! What an awesome privilege for all those who have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, including our loved ones who have left this life in God’s eternal friendship, for they have been gifted with standing next to the angelic hosts – being able to behold and forever enjoy the Beatific Vision, the Holy Wonder of God Himself!
One of the early Fathers of our Church, Saint Cyprian, put it this way in his letter to the Ephesians, “How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God…to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of Heaven with the righteous and God’s friends!”
And this is the faith we live, the Creed which we profess when we pray “We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.”
But we also know that this is a gift given to those who LIVE the life of faith which we profess. It is one thing to say we are Christian; it is something entirely different to BE Christian.
Faith is a gift freely given by God to those He wills, and living that faith in a culture which tends to disparage and belittle what we believe oftentimes requires courage! Living our faith also requires a willingness on our part to open our hearts to what God is asking of us, and also to be willing to accept the ridicule and persecution we may face in a world which is becoming more and more hostile to Christianity.
In all that our Lord taught, He showed us that the way to true happiness lies in living and being caught up in His Love. This means placing God first in our lives, and accepting whatever trials may come our way as blessings! For it is these crosses which we bear from time to time which help make us a better people, a holier people, a people purified and pleasing in the sight of Almighty God.
Remember, Jesus once said “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” It is in this free will acceptance of all that our Lord has taught us, and is now asking of us, which helps us in our growing relationship with our Creator and Savior.
For God’s faithful, it becomes an interior desire to be a more virtuous, a more loving and holier people which enables us to be a truly happier people, a people who are at peace within the embrace of God’s Love.
At the end of each day, it is most fitting that we make an examination of conscience, asking ourselves if we have said and done everything out of love freely given – that we have observed all that the Spirit of Truth has taught us through the Sacred Scriptures and His Holy Church.
And after we have taken stock of our day’s activities, if we find we have come up short in some way by something we thought, said or did, or something we failed to do, then we need to ask God’s forgiveness and make a firm resolve, a firm purpose of amendment to do better tomorrow.
For this brings to mind an expression which I am sure many of us have heard and about which I have written in others meditations, “Tomorrow morning is never promised.” For each one of us knows that the day will come, like “a thief in the night”, when we will have no more tomorrows, and we must stand accountable for the life we have lived in thought, word and deed.
It is God’s desire to lose no one. It is His desire that we always place Him first in our hearts. And yet, there will be those days in which we will feel out of sorts and we will feel that God is far from us – days in which we shall feel overcome with anxiety, sadness, depression – even, what I sometimes refer to as, waves of grief – and none of us are exempt from these feelings!
But it is at these times when each of us feels at our lowest, when the circumstances of life seem to overwhelm us, when we need to reach out to God remembering the words of Saint Paul which we read today –
“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 power for us who believe…”
In other words, what marvelous glory awaits each of us when we remember – even in the midst of our individual sadnesses, in the midst of our trials and tribulations in this valley of tears – to reach out to the Divine Love who wishes to console us in this life, and who will, one day in His unfathomable Mercy, embrace us for all eternity!
Our Lord’s last words to His Apostles in today’s Gospel were, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Let us always, in good days and bad, embrace and live the faith with which God has filled our hearts. And then we, too, when it is our time to be called, will find ourselves rising through the Power, Love and Mercy of Jesus Christ. We will find ourselves rising in the wonder and awe of our own ascension into His Most Loving Embrace, and into His Heavenly and Eternal Kingdom!
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19)
- “…as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” (Acts 1:9)
- “Not only that, but we even boast of our afflictions, knowing that affliction produces endurance, and endurance, proven character, and proven character, hope, and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy Spirit that has been given to us.” (Romans 5:3-5)
- “Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)
- “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24b)
- “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 power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:18-19a)
- “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
- “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20b)
Prayer for the Day
“God our Father, make us joyful in the Ascension of Your Son, Jesus Christ. May we follow Him into the new creation, for His Ascension is our glory and our hope.
“We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”cf. Solemnity of the Ascension (Roman Breviary)