Fr. Bob Hilz
Acts 1:1-11; Ps 47:2-3, 6-9; Ephesians 1:17-23 (or Hebrews 9:24-28, 10:19-22; Luke 24:46-53) OR: Acts 7:55-60; Ps 97:1-2, 6-7, 9; Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20, John 17:20-26
I offer again this prayer for understanding by St. Francis of Assisi. "Most high and glorious God, enlighten the darkness of our minds. Instill in us a correct faith, a certain hope, perfect love and profound humility, O lord, with wisdom and understanding to truly carry out Your holy will." (We ask in Jesus’ Name.)
I have been praying for a few days about how to express a deeper understanding of the Ascension of Jesus into heaven. The most ancient Christian churches flow from Jesus and the apostles he chose and formed. Our liturgical communal prayer life is mostly scriptural. The Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours give us many Biblical texts to reflect on the Ascension of Jesus back to heaven.
In Genesis, Adam and Eve followed the temptation of satan and strayed from God’s one directive, not to eat from the tree at the center of the garden. They did, wanting to be like God having all knowledge. From then on evil continued to grow in the world. God finally sent his own Son, in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus loved people and trained others to continue his work. And Jesus moved the human race in a new direction. Finally he died to cancel the debt of sin for all the human race.
After Jesus’ resurrection he appeared about 12 times over a 40-day period. His work finished, Jesus went back to heaven, promising to be with us until the end of time. He is still here through the apostolic ministry of the church. "If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth," Colossians 3:1. So we keep one foot in earthly things to do what we were created to do here. Our other "foot" we keep in the spiritual things God’s wants us to do so we can one day ascend to heaven with Jesus in eternal glory.
In reviewing all the Ascension texts, I feel the clearest explanation is from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 4:1-24.
"I plead with you … to live a life worthy of the calling you have received, with perfect humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another lovingly. Make every effort to preserve the unity which has the Spirit as its origin and peace as its binding force. There is but one body and one Spirit, just as there is but one hope given all of you by your call. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all, and works through all, and is in all.
Each of us has received God’s favor in the measure in which Christ bestows it. Thus you find scripture saying: ‘When he (Jesus) ascended on high, he took a host of captives and gave gifts to men.’
‘He ascended’ – what does this mean but that he had first descended into the lower regions of the earth? He who descended is the very one who ascended high above the heavens, that he might fill all men with his gifts.
It is he who gave apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in roles of service for the faithful to build up the body of Christ, till we become one in faith and in the knowledge of God’s Son, and form that perfect man who is Christ come to full stature.
Let us, then, be children no longer, tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine that originates in human trickery and skill in proposing error. Rather, let us profess the truth in lover and grow to the full maturity of Christ the head. Through him the whole body grows, and with the proper functioning of the members joined firmly together by each supporting ligament, builds itself up in love.
I declare and solemnly attest in the Lord that you must no longer live as the pagans do – their minds empty, their understanding darkened. They are estranged from a life in God because of their ignorance and their resistance; without remorse they have abandoned themselves to lust and the indulgence of every sort of lewd conduct.
That is not what you learned when you learned Christ! I am supposing of course, that he has been preached and taught to you in accord with the truth that is in Jesus: namely, that you must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire, and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking. You must put on that new man created in God’s image, whose justice and holiness are born of (God’s) truth."
For all of you mothers out there, we as your children, thank you for saying yes to life and allowing us to live and be productive in life on our way with you to heaven. The sacrament of marriage gives couples the graces to build a new life together. Mothers receive extra graces to make all the special sacrifices of raising God’s children. Thank you mothers. I pray special graces on you all this Mother’s Day with peace and all good. Let us continue to pray for more of the Holy Spirit for what we need to live more productive lives.
+ Fr. Bob Hilz
(© 2016 Fr. Bob Hilz, TOR