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Pastor's Letter 20220529 - 29 May 2022 - Heaven and Earth

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May 29th, 2022

Feast of the Ascension


Jesus ascends into Heaven

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme:  “Heaven and Earth” 

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

Luke follows contemporary practice, in today’s First Reading (Acts 1:1-11,) he echoes the close of his Gospel.  First we have a brief review of the Gospel, then a summary of the conversation with Jesus and His apostles after the Resurrection, and then, a description of the Ascension.  The cloud, upon which He ascends into the presence of God, the Father, will be the vehicle in which He will return at the end of time.  The Ascension comes as a solemn finale to Jesus’ mission on earth and the beginning of a new era—the mission of the Church.  Although no longer earthbound, Jesus continues to guide and direct His community.  The power of the Holy Spirit enables us to become Christ’s “witnesses” on earth.  Through us, His message reaches out to ever-widening circles of humanity.


In today’s Second Reading, Paul seeks to give us a “cosmic” understanding of Christ’s role among us (Ephesians 1:17-23.)  God has raised Jesus above all nebulous powers to His due position as the Crown of creation.  He is first-born of all creation, by nature, and first to be born from the dead by His Resurrection—He is first in every way!  Christians who are baptized into Christ have risen with Him, and with Him have been exalted into heaven, and so also glorified.  Our final exaltation will occur for us at the moment of our death, and the Ascension is the example of our own rising into everlasting life.


The Ascension is the culmination of Jesus’ life and the start of the Church’s mission.  At the close of Luke’s Gospel, we have been shown that the “time of Israel” yielded to the “time of Christ,” and thereafter, to the “time of the Church” (Luke 24:46-53.)  It is a summary of the last commission of Jesus to His disciples, as we heard in the beginning of Acts   Jesus cites the Old Testament as the basis for insight into the age of fulfillment, the suffering of the Messiah and His Resurrection.  As always, there is the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness of sins to humankind.  Knowledge of Christ, in the Biblical sense of acceptance and commitment, is the essence of Christian life; and is obviously the first requirement of an apostle.

A Strange Path to Glory

The apostles hoped and dreamed that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  But when He was put to death, their dream was reduced to rubble.  A humiliated, crucified Messiah was unthinkable.  They searched the Scriptures for answers, but found none.  However, gradually, their minds were opened and they realized there was another way of looking at Scripture.  All the prophets had foretold that the Messiah would suffer and die, and then enter into glory.  He would take this strange path to glory, and on the feast of the Ascension, we celebrate His glorification.  The humble Jesus who suffered and died now reigns in glory at the right hand of the Father.  

From a worldly point of view, the hour of Jesus’ death was an abject failure, full of shame and humiliation.  But by raising Him from the dead, the Father turned it into an hour of triumph for Jesus.  His death was precisely the way in which that was realized.  The apostles came to understand the message of Jesus’ death and resurrection: glory, attained through suffering—first the pain, and then the joy. 

Jesus’ place at God’s right hand is His by right of His divine sonship, but He renounced that right, and won it back by right of His loving service.  It wasn’t His suffering that earned Him that glory, but the life He led—a life of service and self-sacrifice—even to death, from which He emerged victorious by His resurrection.  In doing so, He didn’t seek His own glory, but that of His Father.  Jesus’ path to glory was no easy one.  But then, if it had been, it wouldn’t have been much help to us.

After seeing Jesus ascend into heaven, the apostles returned to Jerusalem with joy, because they were convinced that their beloved Jesus was alive.  

In our lives, we may find ourselves going down a “cold and lonely road.”  At such times, we must remember we are not alone—the Risen Lord journeys with us.  He knows everything about human suffering, and is so close to us that our stories merge with His.  Through His suffering and death we can make sense of our own challenges.  The resurrection and ascension of Jesus open all our stories to the prospect, not just of a good ending, but of a glorious one.  

This feast is as much about us as about Jesus.  His ascension shows us the goal of our earthly journey—a destiny that defies even our own imagination.  This gives us an eternal dimension for our lives.  Meanwhile, we have the task to preach the Good News and be His witnesses in the world.

Presence and Absence

Jesus ascension is the liberation from all restrictions of time and space.  Rather than His removal from earth, it represents His constant presence everywhere on earth.  

Physical presence isn’t everything.  In fact, it can sometimes actually get in the way of intimate communication.  Many of life’s disappointments are caused by the fact that seeing and touching do not always create the “closeness” that we seek.  Two people can be physically close, and still live separate, lonely lives—because there is no meeting of their minds and hearts—like shells on the shore.  

However, we know that people can remain close to one another even though they are separated by thousands of miles.  For people to grow together there must be periods of absence as well as presence.  In absence we see each other in a new way: we are less distracted by each other’s idiosyncrasies, and better able to appreciate each other’s worth.  

If we try to be fully present to our friends when we are with them, our absence will also bear fruit.  The memory of that presence, its warmth, will continue to nourish the other person.  So, not only our presence, but also our absence, becomes a gift.

When we think of each other with love, a spiritual bond is created between us, and we enter into a new intimacy.  For those who love one another, there is no such place as “far away.”  

We may look back with envy at the people who were fortunate enough to have seen the Risen Lord with their own eyes.  But the Gospels show us that those who were in that enviable position did not truly know Jesus until the Scriptures were expounded and the bread was broken. 

Christians of the present day have those same means of recognizing our Blessed Lord—the Scriptures and the Breaking of the Bread.  In the matter of encountering Jesus with faith, a past generation is not more privileged than the present one.  

Jesus' ascension was not a journey into “outer space,” but a journey home.  We must not think He has abandoned us; that He once lived on earth but has now gone back to where He really belongs.  If this were so, then Christianity would be no more than a “remembrance religion.”  Jesus has gone to God.  During His earthly ministry, He could only be in one place at a time.  But now that He is united with God, He is present wherever God is present…and that is everywhere.

May God Richly Bless You!

There's always another level up.  There's always another ascension.  More grace; more light; more generosity; more compassion; more to shed; more to grow.

~~Elizabeth Gilbert~~

Lift Him Up.docx

To view a recording of today's Holy Mass, click here:


Edited by Father Michael
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