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Pastor's Letter 20200524 - 24 May 2020 - Heaven and Earth

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A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:

“Heaven and Earth”


 Scripture Note

The feasts of the Resurrection, the Ascension and the giving of the Spirit all part of the same event (notably in the Gospel of John, where he records them happening on one day.)   In one action that goes beyond earthly time, Jesus emerges from the tomb, returns to the father, and gives the Spirit.  From the viewpoint of the first apostles however, who continued to live on “within time” (and in the accounts of the Syoptics*,) those events are described as having happened in a line rfashion:  Finding the tomb empty on Easter Sunday, the apostles saw the Risen Lord later that same day, and subsequently; they witnessed the Ascension; and received the gift of the Spirit, at Pentecost.  When His appearances terminated, they began to realize Jesus was now permanently with God.  *Note: Synoptics: the Gospels of Mark, Matthew and Luke—all being very “similar” in makeup.

 Paraphrasing our Second Reading (Ephesians 1:17-23,)the theological meaning of today’s feast is: “God has glorified Jesus, raising Him above all earthly powers, making Him Head of the Church and Lord of all creation.”

 Our First Reading (Acts 1:1-11,) and our Gospel (Matthew 28:16-20,) outlines the mission Jesus gave to the apostles (to be His witnesses;) and His promise (to send the Holy Spirit to aid them.)

The Meaning of The Ascension 

Luke’s eyewitness account in Acts gives us what appears to have occurred as Jesus ascended into heaven.  However, we must not take this “literally.”  Cosmic understanding of the day placed the earth in the “center” of human existence—with heaven above, and the netherworld below.  (Concepts such as “outer space” and even “the universe,” had little meaning, even for learned people of the time.)   The Ascension remains a mystery beyond any human understanding of physics.  Nevertheless, it represents something—very real—that happened to Jesus.  

C. S. Lewis put it this way:  “Our Lord, a being still, in some mode—was  thought not in our mode…corporeal—withdrew at His own will from the Nature represented by our three dimensions and five senses; not necessarily into the non-sensuous and “un-dimensioned,” but possibly, into, or through a world, or worlds of super-sense and super-space.  And He might [have chosen] to do it gradually. Who on earth knows what the spectators might [have] seen?  If they say they saw a movement along the vertical plane—[first] an indistinct mass, then nothing—who is to pronounce this improbable?”  (1942 sermon—St. Jude on the Hill Church, London)

 It was, by any account, quite different from when Jesus ate and drank in the company of the apostles and others, during the years of His public ministry.  During their travels with Him, they experienced His love and caring every day.  In many ways, He was “just the same” as any of them—a human being, with all that entailed. One wonders then, if His Ascension left them devoid of all this intimacy and familiarity….

 Today’s Gospel ends with Jesus’ promise to remain with His disciples until the end of time.  The Ascension may have been His liberation from all restrictions of time and space, but it wasn’t a removal from the earth.  After his Ascension, Jesus could no longer be present with them, physically ,but He hadn’t left them, entirely.  He had simply taken on a new role; assumed a new position.  Our faith teaches that after many years of humble labor, ending in a dangerous struggle, He achieved the honor of being assumedinto an existence beyond mortality; and was “crowned with glory” by His heavenly Father, becoming Lord of all creation.  For people of faith, Jesus is closer to us now, than ever; in an even better position to help.  He continues to maintain a constant presence in our lives.  During His earthly ministry, He could only be in one place at a time (i.e. If not in Jerusalem, He was in Capernaum, and vice versa.)  But now united with His heavenly Father, He is present wherever God is present—everywhere.  

 The first Christians knew this very well.  They believed Christ was still with them, even if wasn’t physically.  (The special meaning of the Holy Eucharist, then, is clearly understood, in this vein.  Since Christ is within the sacrament we receive into our bodies at Communion, then we receive Him physically into our bodies.)  Our faith teaches He still shares our lives, and our eventual death means becoming united with Him forever, in glory, to which He has attained.  Meanwhile, He was relying on them (and now, on you and me,) to make sure the Gospel would be preached and lived. 

Witnesses for Christ 

Jesus preached the Gospel only to Israel.  At His Ascension, He commissioned the apostles to preach to all nations.  To accomplish this daunting task, Jesus promised to send us the Holy Spirit, as our Advocate, Who would be with us, always, “to the end of time.”  Other than that, Jesus gave us no other assurance, confident we would be able to face whatever difficulty awaited  God’s closeness shields us against a sense of abandonment and despair. 

 In spite of the grave failings of His followers, throughout the centuries, including many terrible persecutions, the Gospel has come down to us, replete with Jesus promise of constancy.  Jesus now depends on us to be His witnesses before the world.  It’s both a daunting task and a great privilege.  When we witness to truth, justice, peace and love, we are witnessing to Jesus:  We witness to truth by living…truthfully; to justice by living…justly; to love and peace, by living lovingly and peacefully toward others.  In short, the most effective witness to Christ is a life lived in emulation of His.  That is what true Christians purport to do.  

Going to Glory

 Jesus did not go to glory only thinking of Himself.  In His absence, He left us the Holy Spirit as our Guide.  In fact, He told the apostles that if He didn’t go, the Spirit wouldn’t come!  The apostles understood this, as attested to by Luke’s account of their return from the Ascension to Jerusalem “in joy” (Luke 24:51.)  Whatever pain they felt at Jesus’ leaving was mingled with their happiness. 

 From our own experience, we know people give us things, and do things for us in their absence, which they can’t do in their presence.  (Think of your parents, teachers and other influential people with whom you have had a close association in your formative years. Once we have left their tutelage, we are “on our own,” to “sink or swim.”)  In their absence we see their true worth.  We get a fuller picture of their characters and a better appreciation of their achievements—what they have done and meant for us.  There is a sense of their having enriched us by their going; their going makes space for us—room and freedom to accomplish our goals without their direct influence.  They show their confidence in us by trusting we will make the best use of the skills and wisdom they have imparted. We know they are still interested in us, and love us, as oftentimes we continue to enjoy their support—from afar. 

 Of course, leaving dear ones brings pain because of the absence created, through our own emptiness and sense of abandonment. But this pain has to be faced in order for us to “come into our own,” and succeed.  This is what Jesus’ did for the apostles when He left them. Their mission of preaching the Gospel and of healing was enhanced by Jesus’ promise to give them strength through the Holy Spirit.  That remains our solace—our refuge—today.  That “Spirit within us” is the source of all our potency—our “direct contact” with the metaphysical/spiritual dimension. 

 The sense of Christ’s presence in our world doesn’t change the world for us.  Rather, it gives us courage and vigor to face it, armed with God’s closeness as we wend our way through life’s challenges.        

May God Richly Bless You!


In his life Christ is an example showing us how to live in His death

He is a sacrifice satisfying our sins in his resurrection a conqueror

In His ascension a King in His intercession a High Priest.”  ~Martin Luther~

To watch a video of today's Holy Mass, Click here: https://youtu.be/gOgtUw_0gb4

Lift Him Up.docx

Lift Him Up!.mp3



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