THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION
OF THE LORD
MAY 16, 2021
Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11
Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
The Gospel of Mark 16:15-20
Deacon Mike D’Addabbo
St. Louis Catholic Church
We have been on a journey through time the last 3 months. We are almost at the end. First, we had the season of Lent, a 40-day period specifically devoted to penance, fast, sacrifice and reconciliation in a replication of Jesus 40 days in the desert. We reached the end of that 40 days with the Passion of Jesus Christ at the Last Supper on Holy Thursday. We then reflected on His Crucifixion on Good Friday and culminated with the celebration of His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. That brings us to today when we celebrate The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord.
During the 40 days between Easter Sunday and today’s Feast day we have been graced with numerous readings from St. Luke’s book the Acts of the Apostles. Also, during the past 40 day
period, we have read about Jesus mysteriously appearing to, and disappearing from, the Apostles. Most of the time when this happened, they were together in the upper room, nervous and full of trepidation. They feared the unknown and what their future
would be without Jesus to guide and strengthen them, even though Jesus had assured them numerous times that He would always be with them. He said He will send an advocate to be with them always. Of course, the advocate Jesus is referring to is the Holy Spirit.
Today’s first reading from Acts begins with St. Luke addressing “Theophilus” which is a general greeting to the crowd meaning “loved by God”. And so, we begin
Today’s reading from Acts begins with St. Luke describing Jesus’ Resurrection and His appearances to the Apostles, “whom He had chosen”. Luke is referring to the beginning of his Gospel narrative chpt. 1 verse 1, in which he states that he has investigated “…everything accurately anew.” Luke wrote “…in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent Theophilous…” concluding in Luke
in Luke chpt. 1 vs. 1 with “…SO THAT YOU may realize the CERTAINTY of the teachings you have received.” Luke reminds the Apostles of this teaching so that, from the beginning of their upcoming ministry, they would have no doubts about what they had been taught and the mission that they were undertaking. The mission was then, and still is now, to go out and make disciples all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. The rest of today’s first reading relates Jesus’ last few appearances and teachings to the Apostles. Luke describes Jesus showing His wounds proving His injuries, death, and resurrection. Jesus talked to them about the kingdom of God and, also, about being baptized by the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells the Apostles that it is not for them to know the end of time. Only His Father has that authority. The Apostles will, however, receive the power of the Holy Spirit and will be Jesus’ witnesses “…to the ends of the earth.” That means forever so it continues today. After saying this, Luke recounts how, as the Apostles were looking on, Jesus was “… lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight.” This is the day we celebrate that Ascension into heaven where Jesus takes His place at the right hand of the Father. This Ascension gives us hope for our future, for us also to be taken up into heaven.
In the second reading St. Paul calls for us to “…bear with one another through love…” and to “…strive to preserve the unity of the spirit.” He reminds them we have “…one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and father of all…”. St. Paul talks about God’s calling of some as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. The are called to build up the church through ministry so we can attain the unity of our faith. We are the modern version of those people today. We, all of us here, are called to those same duties. We are to use the talents God gave us and not bury them, unused, in the ground waiting for Jesus to return. He wants a return on His Investment. That investment in us is Jesus’ life, death, and
resurrection. Only we can provide Him with that return. No one else
can do it for us.
Today’s Gospel from St. Mark talks about the sending forth of the Apostles by Jesus, what they will do, what will be expected of them, and what will happen to those who reject them. The are being sent to baptize and evangelize. They will drive out demons and heal and cure the ill. Those who reject God will be condemned. This Gospel passage concludes with Mark’s version of the Ascension. Jesus is taken up into Heaven and takes His seat at the right and of the Father.
The Ascension is the second mystery of the five mysteries in the Glorious Mysteries of the Most Holy Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary. One definition of ‘mystery’ is “something that is difficult or impossible to understand or explain.” Another is “a piece of fiction dealing usually with the solution of a mysterious crime”. We know
that the second definition is not applicable because these readings are Sacred Scripture. They are not fiction, nor do they concern a mysterious crime. How do we know they are not fiction? Because St. Luke tells us so in his gospel chpt. 1 vs. 1. He wrote that he has thoroughly investigated and checked out the stories of Jesus earthly life, death, and resurrection. He reiterates that in the very beginning of today’s readings. He talks about the Apostles upcoming baptism by the Holy Spirit. At our own Baptism we are given a new birth by water and anointed with the Sacred Chrism Oil which “signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit to the newly baptized.” Thus, we are joined to Christ as a member of His church just as the Apostles were. Our faith in the word of God makes His word so much easier to believe. We must trust in God. And that comes down to the simple, but complicated, mystery of faith. A Jewish neighbor of mine was relating to me a story about his college days in Philadelphia. He was studying science and his lab partner was a Catholic nicknamed Rocky (I know. Rocky. In Philadelphia of all places. And yes, Rocky was if Italian heritage). Well, my neighbor and Rocky would have loud debates over religion and finally the Jewish guy got it. He told Rocky that a Catholic must have faith to believe what we are told was taught by Christ, and then to put those teachings into action. That action part requires courage which we get from our faith in God and the strength of the Holy Spirit beginning at our Baptism. There is a famous quote “God said it. We believe it. And that’s good enough for me.” The quote was by our own Fr. Keith just two weeks ago.
There is another famous quote “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”. That quote is commonly attributed to Edmund Burke, an Irish statesman from the late 1700’s. That is a ‘modern day’ definition of the situation the Apostles faced 2,000 years ago. If they did nothing but hid out in the upper room then the evangelization of the people, and the growing of the Church, would have been seriously hampered. The Apostles
had to act. They could not “do nothing.” Jesus knew that. It is why he reassured them that He would always be with them and would
send the Holy Spirit upon them. That is next week’s Feast of
We must also have courage to act, or question, something that we think is wrong and misleading to the faithful. We must approach the situation with love and prayer. We are to act in accordance with MT. 18:15-17 towards our ‘Brother who Sins’. Our Church is in a crisis today. There is a growing rift among the faithful and the leaders on how the Church should treat Catholic politicians who officially support and promote abortion. This is a more dominant, divisive topic today because Pres. Biden is Catholic.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) is defined as “…the first complete systematic synthesis of faith issued since the Council of Trent in 1566. It contains articles on the classical topics of
the official teaching of the Catholic Church on all matters of faith and morals.” In other word’s it is the latest, and up to date, compilation of Catholic doctrine and dogma. The CCC addresses the issue of abortion and Catholics who give their lives to public service:
CCC 2270 “Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception…”
CCC 2271 “Since the first century the church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not
changed and remains UNCHANGEABLE…is gravely contrary to moral law…” The first century was the first hundred years of the Christian Empire that begins with the life of Jesus Christ here on earth.
CCC 2272 “Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life… “. Excommunication means that you cannot receive Holy Communion, or any other sacrament and should not present yourself for it, until
after you have made a confession and reconciled yourself with God
and do not repeat the offense. Remember what Jesus told the prostitute? “Did no one condemn you? Neither do I. Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.”
CCC 2273 “The inalienable right to life of every innocent
human individual is a “constitutive element of a civil society and its legislation…rights of the person…respected by civil society and the political authority…” The political authority has an obligation to protect life and not to support the taking of life through abortion or any other means.
CCC 2284 “Scandal is an attitude or behavior which leads
another to do evil…Scandal is a grave offense if by deed or omission another is deliberately led into a grave offense”. Abortion legislation, the promotion of a grave evil, is a scandal.
Now you may ask why I bring this up. As I said our Church is facing a crisis today. You can read, or hear, about it every day on many forms of media. The Bishops in the U.S. meet in June and
there will be a discussion about issuing a statement on the issue of abortion support by Catholic politicians who continue to present themselves for Holy Communion. There have been comments from the Vatican to not “politicize” and comingle the issues of abortion and communion. The Bishops did not politicize this issue. That was done by the politicians who politicized the matter for votes, campaign money and political power, wearing their faith on their sleeves while simultaneously flaunting the Church, its teachings and the CCC. The faithful Catholics, those of us gathered here today, try to live and act in accordance with the teachings of the Church and Jesus Christ. Many are confused, and disappointed, by the silence, and tolerance, of some of the Church leadership on this grave offense. It appears to be a silent acquiescence to a grave evil. Haven’t we learned, especially in this past year, that there is never a wrong time to correct a mistake of the past? I would have thought so but perhaps I am wrong.
Today we face the same challenges the Apostles did 2,000 years ago. We must go out into a world where so many want to reject some, or all, of the teachings of Jesus Christ. We must meet those challenges with love and prayer. We must pray for our Bishops that they reach a conclusion that supports the lives of the unborn, takes a stand against abortion, prays for the redemption of all Catholic politicians who support abortion and for God’s mercy on their souls. And we must pray for those in the leadership of the Church as they face this growing division over these topics which the Church has been unambiguous on for over 2,000 years. May the Holy Spirit renew the resolve of the Bishops to fulfill their calling by Christ regardless of political fallout. May the Bishops unite as one without rancor, in support of the unborn, the Church and their fellow Bishops. After all the rewards of heaven are forever and our time here on earth is short.
Thank you for your patience with me today. I am afraid for our Church and its future. We must leaders and adopt the courage of the Apostles. We must pray for the Bishops as they ponder how to handle this controversial issue.
Next weekend we will celebrate the Feast of Pentecost which concludes the Easter season for this year. Pentecost is generally considered to be the birthday of the Church. I think we should get birthday cakes or cupcakes. And I like chocolate.
May our Almighty, Merciful and Glorious God guide and protect all of you and our Church in these tumultuous times.