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Homily for The Ascension, Year B

We've been celebrating for the past six weeks the Resurrection of the Lord,

mirroring the forty days Jesus was with the apostles. Now, with the Lord's

Ascension, our focus changes. Imagine how the apostles felt. Jesus'

crucifixion had been earth shattering, leaving them totally bewildered and

confused, until He appeared to them after His Resurrection on Easter Sunday.

But now, having strengthened their faith and explained many things to them

they didn't understand before, once again He has left them, and they know He

won't return again until the end of the world. They must have had a sense of

being left alone again, although in Matthew's Gospel, Jesus finishes by saying,

“And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time”. Today's Gospel

from Mark shows that Jesus was still with them through their mission. And this

is what I want to focus on today. To begin with, let's have a look at the

profound link between Christ and His Church.


St Paul described the Church using the analogy “the Body of Christ”. Just as a

head is joined to a body, so Christ is joined to the Church. This is how

profound the link is between the two. So theoretically, the Body should follow

the messages that come from the Head, and just as Christ, “the Head has gone

before us in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope”. But in the meantime

between the Ascension and the return of Christ in glory, we are in the time of

the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit's job now to build up the Church on earth.

Once again, there is a profound union between the Holy Spirit and the Church.

Eucharistic Prayer III says that through Christ and by the power and working of

the Holy Spirit, all things are given life and are made holy; in this way the

Father never ceases to gather a people to Himself. We want, therefore, to co-

operate, meaning “work together”, with the Holy Spirit, for this to happen. St

Paul gives us a few clues in this regard.


He says in his letter to the Ephesians that by working together, using the gifts

God has given us, we can build up the Church. So this means that if God has

given us certain gifts, they are there to be used for the service of others, rather

than just being kept for our own use. It also fills us with a certain sense of awe

at the fact that God Himself has actually given us personally and by His own

choice, certain gifts that He hasn't given to others; and they may even include

things such as our sense of humour. Then it's by actually using these gifts that

we develop them, and perhaps in the process discover other gifts that we didn't

even know that we had. Just as with muscles, so by using our gifts we

strengthen and develop them.


Now comes the interesting bit. Just as exercise helps a body to grow stronger,

so the use of our gifts and talents at the service of the Church, strengthens both

the Church and our own bond with the Church. Mission nourishes faith. Faith

can seem to be a rather weak thing when it is only brought out of its nice new

box on a Sunday, and then put away again afterwards, to keep it nice and new.

But when it's actually taken out of its box permanently and used all day, every

day, that's when it grows, connects better with everyday life, and its meaning

and relevance become more apparent. It's a bit like when the telephone was

first invented. Some people had telephones on their desks just to look modern,

but didn't really use them much or see any real need for them. It was only as

they gradually used them more, that they realised how they could assist their

businesses. Similarly with our faith – by using it, putting it into practice, we

receive further grace from God in return for having co-operated with His will.

And this co-operation with the work of the Holy Spirit doesn't just mean doing

holy things such as praying and talking about our faith, although those are very

good things. It also includes helping others in need, even if it's just things such

as calling in on an elderly relative, or speaking to someone who's a bit down.


Jesus said, shortly before His Ascension, “Go out to the whole world; proclaim

the Good News to all creation”. At the end of Mass you will be dismissed for

mission to our world: “Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life”; “Go and

announce the Gospel of the Lord”; “Go forth, the Mass is ended”. As we leave

Mass today, we do so knowing that we have a mission to build up the Church in

the world around us, whatever form that mission may take. May our mission

too, like that of the Apostles, lead many to recognise that they too have been

given gifts by God to use for Him.

 

Curious about exploring things further?  If you would like to ask further questions about the topics raised in these homilies (or maybe think it wasn’t explained too well!), please feel free to e-mail Fr Michael at stjoseph.thame@rcaob.org.uk

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