In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2015/05/15 at 12:00 AM

As Catholics we know that there is more to this world than meets the eye. Indeed, we know by faith that there are invisible realities that are, in a sense, more real than those realities that we can perceive with the senses.

For example, while we cannot see it, or touch it, or hear it, or taste it, or smell it, there is such a thing as grace. It is a reality that is beyond the power of our senses to perceive, but we know by faith that God’s grace is real, and that it is by God’s grace that we are saved.
But because we are weak and willful creatures, humanity often needs a little help in believing those things that cannot be perceived.
This is one of the reasons why the Catholic Church has always been the greatest patron of the arts. The arts help to remind us of these invisible realities of our Faith. The arts help us to perceive and know that which, left on our own, cannot be perceived by the senses.
So for example, our beautiful statues of the saints here in the church are not simply reminders that these holy people once lived here on earth. The statues remind us that, even though they are in Heaven, the saints are with us now as a great cloud of witnesses, looking after us and interceding for us so that we might one day join them.
The music that we hear in the Mass is a reminder that the angels, who forever adore our Lord seated on His throne in Heaven, are with us too, rejoicing and worshiping with us at the Mass.
We cannot see the angels or the saints; we cannot hear or touch them. But these forms of art help to make these invisible realities of our faith knowable to us so that we might be strengthened in our faith and cling all the more closely to our Lord.
With today’s celebration of our Lord’s Ascension into Heaven, the last act of our redemption has now been completed. Jesus our Lord, Who became visible to us as flesh and blood that we might see and know Him, becomes invisible to us once again.
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 to lead us deeper into the mysteries of our faith.
While the Ascension marks the last time man was able to experience in the flesh the humanity of Jesus, we know by faith that our Lord has not left us, but that our Lord’s visible presence has now passed into the sacraments He has entrusted to His Church (St. Leo).
So while we experience Jesus in a much different way than those who lived with Him on earth 2000 years ago, we experience Him nonetheless.
All that He gave to the people of His time is available to us through the Sacraments: His healing, His mercy, His strengthening, His encouragement, His consolation, even His very own Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity is available to us.
So while we may be tempted perhaps to feel some sense of loss as we see our Lord ascend into Heaven, by ascending into Heaven our Lord is now able to be with all of us at all times through the sacraments. Thus, the Ascension is a great gift to the Church!
Even more so, the glorious Ascension of our Blessed Lord is yet one more proof that Jesus is precisely Who He says He is: the only begotten Son of the Father!
St. Paul recounts for us in his 1st Letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor 15:4-6) that over 500 people witnessed the resurrected Jesus, and our reading today from the Acts of the Apostles again speaks of witnesses to this final act of our redemption.
In other words, because we have eyewitnesses to the Ascension of our Lord, we know that it really happened!
Thus, the Ascension of our Lord reminds us that our worship of Jesus and our faith in Him is rooted not simply in a pious belief, but rather in factual, historical events. As such, we cannot dismiss our Lord and His teachings simply because we don’t like them.
The world today often tries to make our Catholic faith look silly, outdated, and over-bearing. Our Church, founded by Christ Himself, is often attacked and marginalized because our teachings are demanding and are thus seen as limiting to man’s freedom.
But the Ascension reminds us why we believe as we do, because like the Resurrection, the Ascension is proof positive that Jesus is Who He Says He Is: He is Lord! He is the way, the truth, and the life.
Thus, my dear friends, we must take our Lord and our Catholic faith seriously! This means that we must strive to live our Catholic faith with true integrity. Of course this means being obedient to the Church’s teachings, but our integrity must go beyond mere obedience.
It means that we must strive to imitate Jesus in every aspect of our lives. Our belief in Him must transform us so that we become like Him in every respect such that our very lives witness to the truth of Who Jesus Is!
Our readings today also remind us of the great blessing of believing in our Lord. Our second reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians speaks of the enlightenment of heart, the hope, the riches of glory, and the surpassing greatness of His power for those who believe.
In the Gospel today Jesus tells His disciples that those who believe and are baptized will be saved. And not only that, they will be mighty signs that accompany those who believe.
While our world may hold fast to the saying that “seeing is believing,” as Catholics wefollow the admonition our Lord gave to St. Thomas: blessed are those who have not seen
and yet have believed (John 20:29).

My dear brothers and sisters, the glorious Ascension of our Lord shows us that Jesus Is WhoHe says He Is! Today He gives us every reason to believe that He is our sovereign Lord.
Let us hold fast to our belief that He is indeed the only begotten Son of the Father, our Saviorand our Redeemer.
While we may not be able to see Him in the flesh, we know by faith that He is present to usin the Sacraments. So like His disciples of old, may we be His faithful witnesses so that the gift of His salvation may be brought to all mankind.
20 May 2012

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

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