Applying the Ascension to our lives today
Over the years I’ve heard (and I bet you have too), many different homilies on what Jesus’ Ascension into heaven means for us as Christians. The homily theme that comes to mind most readily is that post-Ascension, the resurrected Jesus exists in human lives in a new way. This way enables us to experience him, not in the same way the disciples did, but in our hearts, our minds and in others – and of course, in the Eucharist.
I wonder, what’s been your personal experience of Jesus? While many faithful Catholics indeed experience the nourishing effects of Jesus each week at Mass, many more have never had a deeply personal, life-changing encounter with the Lord. Would you place yourself in this category? Did you know that Jesus himself desires this encounter with you more than you could ever know?
It makes me sad to think about the fact that for so many baptised Catholics, their experience of Jesus is limited to what happens at Sunday Mass. Yes, Christ is fully and equally present to us in four different ways when we celebrate Mass – in the Eucharist, the proclaimed Word, the gathered congregation and in the person of the presider – but the Ascended Christ should not and cannot be limited to these four ways.
In Mark’s Gospel account of the Ascension today, the disciples are commissioned to “Go out to the whole world [and] proclaim the Good News to all creation” (Mk 16:15). We are all commissioned in a similar way by the presider (acting in the person of Christ), at the end of Mass, but our commission depends on us sharing what we’ve received. If all we’ve received is an experience of Jesus at Mass, we’re going to find it extremely difficult – I’d suggest – to bring others to Jesus; why? Because a non-Catholic will not, in most instances, be comfortable coming to a celebration which presumes and indeed requires a certain literacy. Mass, for example, is not the start of the journey for most people but the end of the journey; the high point if you will; the summit they reach after climbing up the stages of faith.
Friends, today’s celebration of the Ascension means that others can experience Jesus Christ in their lives – even if they’re not Christian – but it also behoves us to experience Christ in ways that are not limited to Mass. The commission we receive in today’s Gospel is not a commission for them to come to Mass but for us to go forth from Mass and seek to encounter Jesus in deeply personal, life-changing ways that we cannot help but share with others.
Let’s pray, therefore, for the gift of this encounter with the Lord today and throughout the coming week. In doing so we refrain from going forth at the end of Mass, having simply satisfied our Sunday obligation, but do so as missionary disciples who seek to share what we’ve received with a community, state, country and world that’s suffering and thirsting for Jesus Christ in all his fullness.
Peace and blessings for the coming week,