Homily - Ascension - Year C

Homily (Sermon) - It's out turn now.

The Readings for Ascension  Year C:

First Acts 1:1-11
Psalm Ps 46:2-3, 6-7, 8-9  R v6
Second Ephesians 1:17-23
Gospel Luke 24:46-53
[These readings can be found at www.universalis.com for the next few weeks.]

When Gail and I got married we went to Paris for our honeymoon. While there we visited the royal palace at Versailles and spent a wonderful day exploring the palace and the gardens. It's a wonderful place with many beautiful things to see, from antiques to flowers. But what I remember most from that day were the clouds.

They were big, bright, fluffy clouds. Clouds you could see shapes in. Look there it's a bunny rabbit, and over there, a crocodile, that one looks like a car. Do you know the sort of clouds I mean, the one you just have to smile at. The ones that only appear on bright sunny days. The ones that only appear in the very bluest skies.
I am sure it was a sky such as this that the disciples stood under at Bethany. Jesus stood before them and talked about himself in the scriptures, in the Law of Moses, in the Psalms and the Prophets, what we now call the Old Testament. He opened their minds so they could understand. These men had been with him, had witnessed his teaching, his miracles, his torture and death. They now stood with him after his resurrection. They understood that they would be taking the message of repentance and forgiveness of sins out into the world. And as they understood,  He blessed them, and ascended until a cloud took him from their sight.

Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, the moment when our Resurrected Lord leaves this mortal world and returns to heaven. But it's much more than that, it's not about Jesus leaving it's about Jesus taking his rightful position, as Paul tells us and the Ephesians, Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, as ruler of everything. He is the head of the church, and we as the church are his body. We as the church are the fullness of Christ. Christ is present today in this Mass, in the Eucharist, in the Word we have just listened to, in Father Frank, in Persona Christi and in YOU, in us all. So as Jesus left this mortal world, He also joined us, as we continue to do his work and spread his word. The Disciples knew this, it was evident in the joy they felt as they saw him ascend. Soon the Holy Spirit would come to the disciples and strengthen them for the task, and we will celebrate that at Pentecost next week.

So Ascension is an ending and a beginning, and today we have heard the same story told in both ways. We first heard the story told at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, then we heard it again right at the end of Luke's Gospel. It's a little like a two part Doctor Who story, at the end of the first episode you are left wanting to know what happens next, and at the start of the next episode they remind you where you are and lead you into the next part of the story. Most biblical scholars would credit Luke with writing both Luke's Gospel and Acts. So if you were listening closely you may wonder why there are some small difference in the telling. For me these differences come about because the focus of the Gospel is Jesus, while the focus of Acts is the work of the Apostles.

In the final few sentences of Luke's Gospel, he tells us Jesus is divine, he is the Christ, he is God. We hear that the scripture foretold of his coming. In fact we hear this ourselves today in our Psalm, “The Lord goes up with shouts of Joy” Luke goes on to describe a demonstration of Jesus' priesthood as he blesses the disciples, just before he is carried in heaven. After he has gone the disciples worship him, they worship his unseen presence, as we do today, and they were filled with joy, the same joy that we can be filled with when we let Jesus into our hearts and lives.

When we look next to Acts we get the same event as the start of a new story, the story of our faith, of our church spreading over the world. We hear in a lot more detail Jesus preparing the disciples for their task. For example we are told He is with them for 40 days after his resurrection, hence today's celebration is 40 days after Easter. But in the gospel Luke didn't mention any time, in fact you could easily assume Jesus ascended on Easter Sunday. In the gospel, time isn't important, we are being told our Lords Story, when he walked this earth, but in Acts, time, is important. Luke wants us to know the disciples were prepared, that the message they passed down to us is correct. So he tells us of the 40 days Jesus spent preparing them.

Also in Acts we hear about the time the disciples have to do their work, that Jesus will return at a point known only by the Father. They have only an unknown amount of time to tell everyone, to prepare everyone, for the return of Jesus. It is because of them and the people they told, and the people that they in their turn told, and so on over two thousand years, that you come to be sitting here today. So the story we hear started today in Acts is our story, it's one we will continue tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that, unless... unless we get another perfect cloudy day. A day when you lookup to the clouds and instead of bunny rabbits, or crocodiles you see our Lord coming again in glory.

So until that day, how are we going to add to the story, we are the church, we are Christ's body, we continue his work, what will be written in the Acts of the people of the Parish of Our Lady of Lourdes/St Austines/St John Fisher.

It's our turn now.

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