Ascension of Our Lord
A little less than two weeks ago, we saw the Coronation of King Charles. His mother, Queen Elizabeth, died last year on the Feast of the Birth of the Theotokos, September 8. Charles has been king from that time, but the people of the United Kingdom had to wait until the Coronation to see him come into the fullness of the throne, as it were.
That’s kind of like what we’re celebrating here. Our King died and was Resurrected forty days ago, but it wasn’t until now that we see Him come into the fullness of his throne. As today’s entrance hymn says, God ascends His throne amid shouts of joy, the Lord amid the sound of trumpets.
Let’s review what He did during those forty days. He instituted the Eucharist and the Priesthood on the night before he died. Then, the evening after His resurrection, he ordained the first priests, the eleven Apostles. Immediately after that, He followed that up by instituting the Mystery of Repentance (or Confession). And then He spent much of that forty days continuing his instruction of the Apostles, speaking of the Kingdom of God. As our Gospel reading says, He opened their minds to understand the scriptures.
But, in the passage from Acts that we just heard, Luke makes an interesting point. Up to the time of the Ascension, which we celebrate this day, we see all that Jesus began to do and to teach.
Jesus continues today to exercise His ministry of doing and teaching. He doesn’t do it by being physically present, as a flesh and bone man. Rather, He does this through the Church, His Body!
In the Sermon on the Mount, He touched on part of His plan for the Church in the world. ““You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trodden under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” .
You mustn’t think that He’s talking her about salt in its role as a flavor enhancer. Yes, it is that, but its greater importance in the ancient world was as a preservative. We, the Church, serve as a preservative for the world, the good of the world. But, if we lose our saltiness, our Christian character, we lose our value as a preservative. And how do we lose that Christian character? When we begin to think like the world
There are social positions that the Church has always taught. We can’t just throw them away because the other positions are socially acceptable now. Our society is pushing ideas today, such as same-sex marriage, abortion, easy divorce, multiple sex partners, the legalization of recreational drugs - these things are just as wrong today as they were 2000 years ago. Just because something is socially acceptable doesn’t make it any less a sin.
Light is something that points the way, that allows others to see the truth. But, before showing the way, we must know it ourselves. Paul said to Timothy, “Study to show yourself approved”. And Christ said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free”.
The truth cannot set you free unless you know it.
But, besides living the teachings of the Church and knowing the truth, the truth must penetrate our hearts. That’s where prayer and the Sacraments become important.
St John Bosco had a vision of our time. He saw the Church as a giant ship, and it was anchored. “In the midst of the immense expanse of sea, two mighty columns of great height arise a little distance the one from the other. On the top of one, there is the statue of the Immaculate Virgin, from whose feet hangs a large placard with this inscription: Auxilium Christianorum—’Help of Christians’; on the other, which is much higher and bigger, stands a Host - the Eucharist - of great size proportionate to the column and beneath is another placard with the words: Salus Credentium—Salvation of the Faithful”.
Yes, the Church has often been called a ship. But it’s not a cruise ship where people are along for a ride and are served by the few. Rather, it is a battleship, with all hands on deck., ready for battle.
And, so, my brothers and sisters, continue the work of Christ, in both what he began to do and began to teach.
- Know what the Church says on the social issues of the day, and act by them - even if it alienates people, just a Christ alienated those who opposed what He did. Be the salt of the earth.
- Know what the church teaches doctrinally, and both live by it and communicate it to others. Be the light of the world. Padre Pio said, “Today’s society doesn’t pray. That’s why it’s falling apart”.
- Remember that the Church - with devotion to the Theotokos as our helping mother, and to the Sacraments that Christ has given us - are the anchors we need.