The Ascension of the Lord

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2016/05/07 at 12:00 AM

Just outside of the old walled city of Jerusalem, on the Mount of Olives, stands a small, circular mosque of little architectural or artistic value. In truth, it’s really quite humble.
But while this building may appear insignificant to the common passer-by, its humble appearance belies the great mystery of our faith that it represents.
For in this tiny circular building maintained by Muslims is the spot where it is believed our blessed Lord ascended into Heaven 40 days after His resurrection.
The most notable element of the mosque is a human footprint preserved like a fossil in the stone floor that is purported to be the right footprint of Jesus in the very place that He ascended from this earth into the glory of Heaven.
To those who see it, this footprint is a seed of faith that helps us believe not only that Jesus really did ascend into Heaven, but that Jesus really is Who He said He Is: the Word made flesh, both God and man, our Savior and Redeemer.
Indeed, the Ascension of our Lord no doubt served to solidify the nascent faith of the apostles and the first Christians. Seeing our Lord ascend body and soul into Heaven as the Scriptures attest could not but strengthen the faith of all who witnessed it.
But for us Christians of today who commemorate this mystery 2000 years after the fact, the Ascension of our Lord calls us to practice the virtue of faith all the more assiduously.
ItisacallforustomaketheactofthewilltobelieveinourLordandtoloveHimasour sovereign king with greater strength and fervor.
My brothers and sisters, we are now living in an age of ever-growing disbelief in the Christian mysteries. The beautiful faith that we possess and profess no longer holds the prominence in the world that it did even just 40 or 50 years ago.
Consumed by materialistic and selfish desires, consumed by a sinister pride that believes himself to be the measure of all things, modern man is quickly deciding that faith in God is at best an unnecessary and tedious ornament to culture, and at worst an infringement upon man’s freedom and an obstacle to man’s self-actualization.
Every year polls show that the numbers of people who consider themselves atheistic or agnostic is growing in the western world, while governmental assaults on religious freedom and public religious expression are growing more hostile and virulent.
So what is the faithful Christian soul to do in the face of this rising cultural and political opposition to faith? We are to believe in our Lord Jesus Christ and the teachings of our beautiful Catholic faith with all the more tenacity. We are to be more faithful!
And today’s celebration of the Lord’s Ascension is our invitation to do just that.
On the Sunday after Easter we recalled the story of St. Thomas refusing to believe in ourLord’s resurrection without seeing and touching our Lord for himself.
Wishing the good Thomas to have the faith of an apostle, our blessed Lord obliged Him byappearing in his presence and inviting Thomas to touch the wounds in His hands and side. As we all know, Thomas then believed – so much so that he died a martyr’s death for his faith.
But as we should all recall, our Lord chided St. Thomas for relying on the experience of our Lord’s physical presence in order to believe in His resurrection.
Seeing something in the flesh and coming to believe it is not faith, my brothers and sisters. It’s simply verifying that something is indeed true. True faith requires much more of us than believing in something because we’ve been able to prove its veracity.
The author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us that: “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). It is the way that man personally adheres to God (cf. CCC #150).
Faith is not a feeling. Faith is a virtue. It’s an act of the will. While faith is a gift that our Lord implants within us at baptism, for our faith to grow we must choose to exercise it by making the act of the will to believe.
Indeed, exercising faith is a matter of submitting one’s intellect and will to God (CCC #143); it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed (CCC #150).
Our Lord desires that we make these acts of the will, for it is by willing to believe in our Lord and in His promises through faith, and by faithfully obeying the teachings of His Church, that we show our Lord just how much we love Him.
And our love is what He desires most from us. But we cannot love Him without truly having faith in Him – without believing in Him – first.
Believing in God and submitting our intellects and wills to Him in faith can be difficult today, especially as we consider that our society is constantly striving to give us reasons not to trust in God.
Our politicians and the laws they legislate often work against our faith, and the media and entertainment of today constantly promote values contrary to our Catholic beliefs.
If we fill our minds with today’s media and political rhetoric, without being properly formed in the truths of our faith, then it can be very easy for us to question God.
Yet, that’s the absolute beauty of our Lord’s Ascension! Who else but our Lord could ascend body and soul into Heaven on His own power and by His own authority?
Who but God alone can command the veil between Heaven and earth to open so that He might pass from time into eternity at will?
So as we consider this amazing final episode in Jesus’ time on earth, an event witnessed by hundreds of people, how we can deny that Jesus truly is Lord? And if He is Lord, how can we doubt His teachings held in trust by His Church and safeguarded by the Holy Spirit?
Truly, in addition to the healings, the exorcisms, the raising of people from the dead, and other miracles, as well as His own death and resurrection, the Ascension of our Lord is another perfect reason for us to place our trust in Jesus.
My dear brothers and sisters, may we all be strengthened in our faith by the mystery of our Lord’s ascension into Heaven. By believing in God more, may we love Him all the more.
And in believing in God and loving Him more, may we all be better prepared for the glory of Heaven!
12 May 2013

© Reverend Timothy Reid

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

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio.
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