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Caution: Putting a Sunday homily on the Website is tricky business. All the viewer has is a written text. A homily, on the other hand, is "an oral event". It may not have been said or heard the way it was written. In addition, a roughly ten-minute homily is part of a roughly one-hour worship event in which God and God's people communicate with each other by means of ritual, symbol, song, proclamation, prayer. Not everything in these homilies is original. As a homilist, I rely on and at times borrow from other homilists and writers who are not properly mentioned in this format. I am often indebted to them.

Father William Marrevee, s.c.j.

Ascension A

The Gospel of today has the disciples of Jesus go to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. I cannot help but think of another renowned person for whom the image of a mountain top experience was crucial. Remember Martin Luther King? He had at least two memorable and moving mountain top speeches: “I’ve been to the mountain top… I have a dream… that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character….. I have a dream that…. we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nations into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood… wherein we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together….” Then King came down from the mountain and marched on the streets of Selma , Atlanta , Washington in order to realize his visions and dreams.

Today’s feast of Jesus’ Ascension is very much like that. Jesus challenges his disciples, he challenges us to come down the mountain, to be his witnesses in Jerusalem , throughout Judea and Samaria and even to the ends of the earth (1 st reading). Today’s feast of the Ascension has everything to do with Jesus transferring his agenda to us as his followers, to us as his Church, to us as his Body. As Church we are not simply to be “a memorial society for a dead Jesus”. On the contrary, as his Body we are to be living witnesses to the fact that the crucified and risen Jesus still lives and still continues his mission, is still working out his agenda, but now through us. What is that agenda? It is characterized by mercy, compassion, forgiveness and caring. That is the kind of authority and power that the crucified and risen Jesus has and shares with us.

It is the kind of authority and power that is quite different from the authority and power that kings, presidents, prime ministers, and dictators may have; quite different from the authority and power that economic, military, political systems and structures may have. In fact, these are demoted and made subordinate to the authority and power of the crucified and risen Jesus. It is with these that a new world, a new humanity will be created.

It is quite obvious that executing the platform or agenda of Jesus is way beyond our abilities. That is why the crucified and risen Jesus, when he gives his Church his agenda, also shares the power of his Spirit with his Church. Twice, in today’s first reading, the gift of the Spirit is announced as a power that will infuse the Church, fire its energies and help in realizing the agenda Jesus gives us.

The feast of the Ascension has nothing to do with getting the body of Jesus off the earth. Rather, it has everything to do with getting the real Body of Christ immersed in the world and there work out the agenda of Jesus. That is us, his followers. By virtue of our union with him and in him we are quite literally the hands that do Christ’s work, the feet that serve his purposes, the voice that speaks his words, and the heart that lives, gives, forgives as he loves, gives, forgives.

The last line of today’s Gospel: “Remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” That is to say, the risen Jesus gives us the courage, the tenacity, the strength for the task at hand.

(cf. Celebration)

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