Our Faith on the Ascension of the Lord

05-12-2024Weekly ReflectionFr. Tony Okolo C.S.Sp., V.F.

Beloved Parishioners,

As I continue my vacation time outside the parish, I am inspired to keep this Pastor’s Corner active by sharing with you some spiritual reflections on a weekly basis. Most of my write-ups would be focused on the feasts, solemnities, or events in our Church’s calendar.

Today, we commemorate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. Let me quickly point out that in some dioceses and countries, the Ascension is celebrated on Ascension Thursday while some dioceses celebrate it on this Sunday like we do in our Diocese here. When we profess the creed and say “… He [Christ] ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father,” it is specifically of today’s celebration that we speak. Christ’s earthly ministry culminated with His glorious ascension, and this has practical significance for our Christian life. His ascension offers us hope of glory (Ephesians 1:18) because Christ took our humanity to God and opened the path to us. Since we are baptized into His death (Romans 6:3-4), we are assured that if we entrust our life to Him, and let ourselves be guided by Him, we are certain to be where He is soonest (John 14:2-6).

Today also, we see the apostles perplexed and gazing defeatedly to heaven as Christ is being physically separated from them, but the angels called out to them saying “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” (Acts 1:11). That gentle reassurance of the angels to the seemingly aghast disciples points out to us the duty we owe our fellow Christians and indeed humanity. Sometimes, we come across people who are disillusioned by what life throws at them so that for a while they seem helpless, and they stand and gaze askance. At times their hope is put to trial and their faith is shaken. As commissioned witnesses of Christ (Mark 16:15), we are called to be agents of comfort, hope, and consolation to people in such situations. This is the crux of modern evangelization characterized by attraction. And this is exactly what Leo the Great highlights when he exhorts us that “the Ascension points out to us that we must despise earthly things and rise to things above, especially by active works of mercy and love.” The corporal and spiritual works of mercy are what designate us as true and fruitful disciples who radiate attractive joy (Luke 24:52). We must often call to mind the words of Pope Francis in ‘Evangelii Gaudium’ which reminds us that “it is not by proselytizing that the Church grows but by attraction” (EG, 14).

Again, in Acts 1:8, Christ intends to set us on the path of mission and evangelization when He highlights: “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Evidently, this message of commissioning brings us new impetus buoyed by the power of the Holy Spirit, to continue the work of evangelization to which we have committed ourselves by virtue of our baptism. We are invited to renew and indeed deepen our commitment to this missionary discipleship.

Beloved parishioners, the Ascension is not primarily concerned with the narrative of Jesus Christ’s departure from earth more than it pertains to the mystery of Christ’s presence among us. We feel Christ’s ever abiding presence in the sacraments thus our devotion to sacramental life must be deepened ever more and our reverence amplified. More so, since we are the body of Christ on earth (Colossians 1:18), may we strive to conform our lives to virtuous ways such that the world may see the face of Christ in us and in so that we may radiate the fruits of the Holy Spirit.

May the Ascended Lord strengthen us with His grace and reinvigorate our hope. Amen.