HOMILY FOR THE ASCENSION SUNDAY
THEME: Departure or Overture?
BY: Fr. Mike Lagrimas
HOMILY: Mk 16:15-20
I believe one of the most emotionally-charged places is the international airport, NAIA in particular. There is so much human drama involved. At the Arrival Area, people are happy, enthusiastic and exuberant. Their loved one, away for a long time, is arriving at any moment. But the complete opposite can be seen at the Departure Area. There is sadness and pain, for their loved one is leaving. There is always sadness in parting.
This Sunday, we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord. We call to mind the event when Jesus finally goes back to the Father. We, therefore, naturally expect the disciples to be sad as the people at the Departure Area. But that was not the case.
In the first place, the evangelists did not dwell so much on the issue of departure. Even St. Luke, who was the only one who wrote about the farewell scene that describes the bodily ascension of Jesus, was not really concerned about how the event took place, but more about the message. The emphasis was not on the details of the departure, but on the words of commissioning. In this Sunday’s Gospel, St. Mark focused on the parting words of Jesus: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16).
Clearly, then, the disciples had no room to indulge in any dramatic display of emotion, for foremost in their mind is not that Jesus is departing, but that they had been entrusted with this gargantuan task of evangelizing the “whole world”, and the time to do it has now begun. That event was, therefore, more of an overture than a departure.
Before such a grand overture, particularly knowing fully well their limitations and weaknesses, the more dominant feeling among the disciples was, most probably, fear and apprehension. That is why, immediately after giving them the mission to evangelize, Jesus was quick to assure them of divine assistance and protection: “These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons; they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents [with their hands], and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17-18).
The Feast of the Ascension of Our Lord invites us to look into ourselves, particularly on the great honor and privilege we received as followers of Christ, and on the tremendous responsibility attached thereto.
First, instead of looking at the Ascension as abandonment by Jesus, we should rather look at it as man’s greatest glory. This is what Pope Benedict XVI pointed out: “The meaning of Christ’s Ascension expresses our belief that in Christ the humanity that we all share has entered into the inner life of God in a new and hitherto unheard-of way. It means that man has found an everlasting place in God.” It is not we, left behind, but rather we, taken up by Jesus into the innermost life of God. How faithful have we been to this great dignity? How joyful are we to realize that we have received such great honor of being welcomed into the life of God? Or do we still find becoming rich and famous as more attractive and desirable than to be known as true Christians?
Second, the Ascension of Our Lord highlights the truth that we profess in the Creed: Jesus will come again. The Gospels contain many parables about a master who sets out on a long journey and entrusts his estate to his servants until his return. We are those servants. Jesus is the Master who ascends to his heavenly Father and leaves his disciples in charge of the affairs of his kingdom till his return in glory. While waiting for that Second Coming of the Lord, we are expected to be the trustworthy and faithful servants. Are we such servants? Are we ready for the Lord’s coming at any time? Do we ever take the task of evangelization seriously? For some of us, we may be embarrassed and humbled to realize that we seriously spend more time, resources and efforts in piling up possessions, or in making ourselves beautiful in front of the mirror than in spreading and living the Good News of Jesus.
Let this prayer, said by the priest every after the Our Father at Mass, give us courage and strength: “Deliver us, Lord, we pray, from every evil, graciously grant us peace in our days, that, by the help of your mercy, we may be always free from sin and safe from all distress, as we await the blessed hope and the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Let our hearts be joyful and our hopes strong for we are confident that God continues to give us His protection from all evils and unnecessary worries as we work for His kingdom on earth while awaiting our Master’s return in glory.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Michael the Archangel Parish
Diocese of Novaliches
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