Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Ascension of Jesus Christ: Ascension Sunday (replaces the 7th Sunday of Easter)

(Listen to this homily here).

            On this glorious solemnity of the ascension of Jesus Christ we celebrate Jesus’ return from where he came.
            Remember, Jesus Christ was God—the second Person of the Holy Trinity—God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  He has existed for all time.  He came to us as a man and spent thirty-three years on our planet.  He then returned to heaven.
            Have you ever thought of what this must have looked like?  Did Jesus have rocket boosters on that blasted him to space?  Did he fly?  Was he in a plane?  Well, obviously they didn’t have planes in Galilee!  It is interesting to think—how did Jesus go back to happen?  What did it look like?
            We might think—without even knowing or intending to—this is just a story.  Yet the Bible makes clear, both in our first reading from Acts and in the end of the Gospel according to Mark: “So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.”  Jesus really returned to heaven.
            Here’s an example from nature that may help explain the ascension of Jesus.  It’s something we are surrounded with in Northern Minnesota—in fact, you can hear it right now—rain!  Specifically, think about the water cycle from elementary environmental studies.  It begins (or to be more precise, continues) in the sky in clouds—in the heavens.  Rain then falls to the earth where it provides life—we see springtime here and can see the green grass and buds on trees from after the rainfall.  The lakes and rivers fill and teem with life.  Indeed, all life requires water.  And when the water has done its job, where does it go?  It returns to the heavens.
            A key, if you will, to understanding how Jesus returned to heaven is by remembering how water returns to the sky.  There are no waterfalls running upwards—for water to ascend it changes to a gas.  Its substance, while the same, changes states.  Yes, Jesus went back to heaven, but he did so in a glorious form—in a different dimension.
            Isaiah captures this metaphor well.  Listen to Isaiah 55:10-11: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and return not thither but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and prosper in the thing for which I sent it.”
            Finally, note the last words Jesus said to his followers: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”  Never forget our basic mission—love God, love our neighbor, seek the lost and make disciples.  Share the story of the Good News of Jesus! 
Jesus Christ hasn’t left…in fact he is more fully in charge of the Church now—seated at God’s right hand—than ever!  He sent the Spirit (which we will celebrate next weekend) to give us courage to preach the Gospel.  May we respond to this charge this week.

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