HOMILY FOR THE SOLEMNITY OF THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD YEAR C
THEME: A FEAST OF HOPE
BY: Fr. Jude Chijioke
HOMILY FOR THURSDAY MAY 26 2022
Readings: Acts 1: 1 – 11; Heb. 9: 24 – 28; 10:19-23; Lk 24: 46 – 53
“As he blessed them, he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.” (Lk 24).
Today’s celebration touches on images already known from the Old Testament to express the eternal Passover of the faithful of God. The figure of Enoch “who walks with God and was no longer because God had assumed him” to heaven (Gn 5, 24), that of Elijah ascending to heaven on a chariot of fire (2 Kings 2) , and the processional psalm of the ark that celebrates the Lord King who “ascends amidst acclamations at the sound of the trumpet, to sit on his holy throne” (Ps 47,6,9) are all a background from which emerges the glorious figure of the Risen One who rises above the heavens.
Behind the scenes of the Ascension is seen two theological elements of great importance. On the one hand there is the sky, an explicit sign of the divine, the infinite and the eternal. It hangs over us, it is endless, silent, and far above the earth. On the other hand, there is, the term exaltation (or elevation) with which John and Paul sometimes describe the event of the resurrection. The cross, planted between earth and heaven is seen as a bridge between the finite and the infinite over which Christ passes to lead us to God: “When I am lifted up from the earth – says Jesus in the fourth Gospel (12:32) – I will draw all to myself”.
It is with these two symbols, “heaven” and “exaltation”, that we can understand the meaning of the solemnity we now celebrate and its value to us. The Letter to the Hebrews, which is a refined homily of the early Church, in the passage we read today explicitly applies to the faithful. The author uses another image dear to him, that of the temple, he substitutes the celestial one for the temple of Zion. According to the Jewish ritual, in the most sacred area of the temple, “the Holy of Holies”, it is only the high priest who is allowed to enter and only once a year, during the solemnity of Yom Kippur, that is, the solemnity of the atonement for sin. With Christ and with his blood shed on the cross, the possibility of entering the heavenly sanctuary where the perfect encounter with God is celebrated is open to all.
Therefore, we no longer have to offer cattle and bulls nor lift the purple veil that covers the Holy of Holies of the Temple in Jerusalem, neither do we have to perform purification rituals; now a “living” road opens up before us, the veil of the “flesh” of Christ, our guide and leader who goes before us to introduce us to the fullness of life and intimacy with God.
Today’s solemnity is, therefore, a feast of hope, it is the celebration of the redemption of our mortal bodies in the glory of the resurrection, it is the proclamation of the blessed immortality, it is the index pointing towards the ultimate goal of our life. What we profess in the Creed is not so much the immortality of the soul but the “resurrection of the flesh”, that is, the entrance of the whole being into the glorious mystery of God. Total, this is the real meaning of the Passover of the Lord. “Let us hurry after him to enter that rest” (Heb. 4:11).
Fr. Jude Chijioke