The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
May 24, 2020
Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11
Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
The Gospel of Matthew 28:16-20
Deacon Mike D’Addabbo
St. Louis Catholic Church
WELCOME BACK!!!! For some of you this may be your second week back at Mass and for some it may be your first week back. For me it is my first week back to assist at Mass with parishioners at attendance. I have assisted at two of the streamed Masses but it is not the same as being with you in attendance. The only ones at the streaming Mass are the priest, deacon, camera man and musicians who are up in the choir loft. So it is truly a great joy to be with all of you again participating in Mass and the Sacrament of Holy Communion. This is my first homily in three months. We went into the lock down/stay home and stay safe mode just before we were set to preach in March. So please bear with me if I seem nervous.
These last two months since Mass was suspended have been very hard on the faithful but especially hard on the Bishops, pastors and priests in all the dioceses worldwide. I was actually pleasantly surprised to hear that here in Wt. TN. there were numerous complaints from people because they could not attend Mass or receive communion. That is music to our ears when what we often hear is the declining numbers of church goers and believers in religion. Maybe the only beneficial thing coming out of this pandemic is that people have turned back to God and not their backs on God. If we look around we will see God’s hands revealed in many ways- strangers showing kindness to others, parents and children (younger, middle and older ones) spending time together without electronic devices and families sitting down having meals together. Just like we are about to do today during Mass. The family is a microcosm of what the church is to be. The church is a family. We- not the building- are the church. Now I know many are still very concerned about Covid-19 and not yet attending Mass. That is understandable and that is why the Bishop Talley has granted a general dispensation from the Sunday Mass obligation through June 30. So for those of you who have ventured out and are here today in your masks please know that we are very glad to see you. For those not comfortable in attending Mass yet but are watching the streamed Masses please note that you can receive Holy Communion here at church twice during the weekend. Saturdays at 5:45 PM and Sundays at 12:15 PM. Just drive up to the portico in the school parking lot and a Priest or Deacon will be there.
And what a great celebration we have for today. It is The Solemnity of the Ascension. The day our Lord left the Apostles and ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. The word ‘solemnity’ is defined as ‘a serious feeling or tone for a ceremony or occasion’ and in the Catholic Church it denotes that the feast day has the highest liturgical rank of a feast in the ecclesiastical calendar in the church.
Today’s celebration, while solemn, is a joyous occasion. It is the grand finale. It marks the end of Jesus’ humanity on earth. He came without sin and shared in our humanity. In the course of His humanity on earth, but primarily in His last 3 years of public ministry, He fulfilled in front of the disciples and other witnesses, all the Old Testament prophecies. He showed that He was the long-awaited Messiah. That was why He suffered, was crucified, died and was buried. He rose from the dead three days later as He had told His disciples He would. He appeared to two disciples on the road to Emmaus but they did not recognize Him until He broke the bread repeating what they heard he had done at the Last Supper. He appeared to the disciples in the Upper Room so that they could see and believe that He had risen from the dead. He had to do all these things even though He had told them what would happen to Him.
He told them these things knowing they would not understand and be able to accept it at face value. He knew they had to see it. He had told them that He would be leaving them and this scared them. He assured them they would know where to go and what to do but they rejected that saying how could they know that if he was not with them? Today’s readings tell us how they could know that.
Today’s Gospel from Matthew says it quite succinctly and bears repeating because nothing can improve on it. Jesus tells the disciples: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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 behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” This is called the great commissioning and Christ’s instructions are quite clear. Make disciples of all nations. Not just the Israelites. And that, whether or not they see Him, He will be with them always. Remember that the second time Jesus appeared in the upper room He told Thomas to come and see His piercings and to touch His wounds. We are not told that Thomas did that but instead Thomas exclaimed “My Lord and My God”. And what did Jesus say? “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.” Matthew wrote the Sermon on the Mount, inclusive of the Beatitudes, which is just some of all that He commanded of the disciples. It is not until Jesus actually ascends into heaven to be seated at the right hand of the father that the disciples actually grasp the reality that He has left them. And despite His commissioning they are still afraid and retreat back into the upper room in hiding. They are in fear and do not know what to do.
In today’s first reading from the Acts of the Apostles we read that Jesus appeared to the disciples many times after having risen from the dead. After three years of following and listening to Him, watching Him die and seeing that He rose from the dead, they are still confused and unable to understand the meaning of His words. They expect the restoration of the kingdom of Israel to be an earthly kingdom. He is, of course, referring to His heavenly kingdom. Jesus once again reassures them that he will not abandon them and that they will carry on His works. They will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to them. That will be the Solemnity of Pentecost, commonly referred to as the birthday of the church, which we will celebrate next Sunday.
We cannot see the coronavirus but we know it is there because we are able to test for it. Similarly, this week readings are about faith in the words Jesus taught us. We are not the disciples in the upper room seeing and believing. We are the disciples that have followed those other disciples. We are blessed because we believe but have not seen. The disciples were scared when Jesus left them despite His many words to them that He would be leaving but would not abandon them. We are scared of this virus that we cannot see and that has caused our lives so much turmoil. Hopefully we are all handling it well but do not think we have been left alone. That is what the devil wants us to think. Only now can we start coming back to Church but that does not mean Jesus abandoned us. He has been with us the whole time just like He promised in today’s gospel message.
We believe, without seeing, in our good Lord Jesus Christ. He is with us always until the end of the age.
May our Almighty and glorious God Bless you all.
Welcome Home!!! Isn’t it great to be back!!!