Ascension of the Lord

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2013/05/08 at 12:00 AM

The Cathedral Basilica of St. Mark in Venice is one of the architectural and artistic marvels of the Western world. The current church, which is actually the third on the site, was consecrated in 1094.

Since that time it has been known as the Chiesa d’Oro, the “Church of Gold,” a reference to all of the gold mosaics that adorn the walls and ceilings of this magnificent structure.

The church is built with five domes, and in the central dome of the church is a gigantic mosaic of our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven. In this image Jesus is clothed in gold as a sign of His absolute power and His transcendence of the natural order.

He is shown amidst a beautiful blue field filled with stars, and angels, our Lady, and the apostles surround him. Below our Lady and the apostles are allegorical representations of the virtues and beatitudes.

The sense one gets from looking upon this monumental work of art is of Christ’s power over sin and death. He is radiant in glory, and there can be no doubt that of His kingdom there will be no end.

What I love about this mosaic and its depiction of Christ is that it inspires you to serve Him. He is majestic and awesome, and yet He does not appear as someone to fear. Rather, Jesus appears completely loving and loveable in this image.

My own experience of looking upon this mosaic is that it generated within me a greater desire to worship Jesus. It made me want to be like Jesus, to grow in virtue and holiness. Ultimately, it made me want to go to Heaven!

That’s really the whole point of today’s feast, is it not: the hope of going to Heaven?

With our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven, we are now celebrating the final act of our Lord’s

Paschal Mystery.

Since Holy Thursday night when our Lord’s suffering began, the Church has immersed

Herself in Christ’s Paschal Mystery, which is the mystery of our redemption.

Through His suffering, death on the cross, resurrection, and ascension into Heaven, Jesus has

redeemed us and made salvation possible. He has opened up for us the way to Heaven.

Today we witness our Lord passing through the veil separating heaven and earth. He does

this not to obscure Himself from us, not to abandon us, but rather to prepare a place for us in

Heaven and to inspire within us a greater desire to be with united to Him.

In His Ascension Jesus gives us a foretaste of what awaits us who believe in Him. The

Ascension is a foreshadowing of that divine life to which we are all called and for which we

were all made.

Thus, in this Mass we give thanks to our Lord, and we render unto Him worship and praise

for providing us an opportunity to be saved, despite our manifest sinfulness.

But my dear brothers and sisters, as we meditate upon our Lord’s Paschal Mystery, it is not

enough for us to be passive by-standers, simply meditating upon all that our Lord did to

make salvation possible for us.

Salvation is not something we just sit around and wait for. Our salvation is something we

participate in and work out over the course of our lives.

Thus, as baptized Christians we are called to enter into the Paschal Mystery – to which we

were first introduced when we were baptized.When we are baptized, we are baptized into our Lord’s death and resurrection, and thus we are called to participate in our Lord’s redemptive works, which continue to be carried out in history through His Body, the Church.

When we unite our sufferings in life with the sufferings of our Savior, when we carry our crosses out of love, and when we die to self through fasting and penance so that we might grow in virtue and holiness in imitation of our Lord, we die with Christ and share in His Paschal Mystery.

And we rise with Christ and share in His Paschal Mystery, as well, through mental prayer and by receiving the Sacraments worthily, which give us a foretaste of Heaven.

As today’s feast reminds us, death never has the final word for those who love Christ! We know by faith that there is an eternal reward for those who follow Christ faithfully, a reward that is the central object of our hope.

It is this hope that St. Paul speaks of in his Letter to the Ephesians, when he prays that “the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe.”

This hope is the hope of rising eternally with our Lord to the glory of Heaven, where we will behold Him face-to-face forever and ever in an all-consuming embrace of love.

Today’s feast solidifies our hope and points the way. It reminds us that our true home is in Heaven where we will reign with Christ. But there is a caveat: to reign with Christ, we must first suffer with Him.

The Paschal Mystery teaches us that there can be no Easter Sunday and Ascension without a Good Friday first.

And so, if we are to be His true disciples, we must be willing to suffer and die to ourselves during our earthly life, bearing patiently with ourselves and those who hurt us, embracing our crosses with love, prayerfully trusting in our Lord’s mercy and confidently hoping in rising again, all with an eye toward glorifying God.

For this is the way that we fulfill the will of God in our lives. It is the way that we prepare ourselves for Heaven. It is the way that we unite ourselves to our Lord now so that we can be united with Him eternally.

My dear brothers and sisters, the Ascension shows us once again that our Lord is omnipotent. He is all-powerful. He is not bound by the material world; He is not even bound by sin or death.

Let us all make the choice to serve our all-powerful Lord with great love and devotion. Let us serve Him by entering with Him into the Paschal Mystery, trusting that at the end of our earthly lives, our hopes will be fulfilled and we will reign with Him forever in Heaven.

Copyright 2011 by Reverend Timothy S. Reid

Reverend Reid is pastor of St. Ann’s Catholic  Church in Charlotte, NC


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