Homily for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, Year A 2020
The Reign of Hope
Not too long ago, a friend of mine rang me. At first, I thought she was simply checking on me. But it turned out that she had news to share. She was pregnant and expecting a boy. ‘Wow’, I exclaimed. Unfortunately, Francis was not on their name list for the boy. Perhaps she knows me too well and would not want to have another Francis. But she ended her call asking me if I will baptise the boy, pray for her husband to be more supportive of her in this time of pregnancy.
This story is a loose analogy of the solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. In many ways, we are all like my pregnant friend. We are pregnant with the seed of eternal life. And as my friend’s doctor revealed to her the sex of her child, God the Father has revealed to us what eternity is in the Ascension of His Son. We will be His sons and daughters in His Son, sitting at His right hand, willing the good and celebrating the heavenly liturgy. Our human nature will be glorified.
Just as my friend did not remain in the doctor’s room looking at the ultrasound, the disciples, and we by extension, are not to remain on the mountain gazing at the sight of the Ascension. We have to come down the mountain. Heed to the instructions of Christ, ‘Go and make disciples of all nation, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.’ We have to regularly attend ‘antenatal classes’, the Sunday liturgies to care for our pregnancy.
In this sense, the Ascension of the Lord becomes not only what we see and hear, but how we live our lives. It becomes a sending forth, the mission to go and tell another what we have witnessed, and how what we have seen and heard has influenced our lives. It becomes the reign of hope. A call to live in hope, to desire what we have been promised. For hope gives us the courage to be expectant, to join the Father in letting His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Saint Paul in his letter to the Ephesians 4:1-24 rhetorically asks, ‘When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that He had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same One who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things… But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ…’ so that where Christ the head has gone, we His Body may follow in hope.
Tim Keller sums it up like this, ‘The ascension, when understood, becomes an irreplaceable, important resource for living our lives in the world—and it’s a resource no other religion or philosophy of life holds out to us.’ It is the resource that summons us to live out our baptismal promises: reject Satan, all his works, and all his empty promises so that we can believe in the Fatherhood of God, live the freedom won for us by the Son and enjoy the support of the Spirit.
An Italian teenager bore witness to all this. She lost her parents to the Coronavirus. After the burial of her father, she was shattered. Despair may be an understatement of her state. In anger and disappointment, she smashed everything in the house that she could smash. But not long after that, she stood up, and with loud voice screamed, ‘I refused to let the Coronavirus win. I must rise and be the change this time demands. I will study and help find a cure to this pandemic.’
This is hope. It is the hope of one who has descended and ascended. She can see that life is not limited to space and time. Life transcends us. It transcends the happenings, the misfortunes and the evil. And the only way to live is to hope. To find the courage to accept the pregnant moment, to do what has to be done, and as Catholics, this means living our baptismal mission, regularly allowing ourselves to be grafted into Christ and expectantly waiting for the birth of our eternity.