Cycle B The Ascension of the Lord

 Acts 1:1-11; Ephes. 1:17:23 (Or Ephes. 4:1-13); Mk. 16:15-20

Today we gather to commemorate the glorious feast of Ascension, a pivotal event in the life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven completed His earthly work of our redemption. Through His numerous apparitions to hundreds of people between the Day of His glorious Resurrection and the Day of His Ascension, Jesus proved two things. First of all, He proved that He was the promised Messiah. Secondly, He proved that through He Who overcame death, those who persevere in their living faith shall also overcome death and inherit the Kingdom of God.

Based on the writings of St. Augustine, the Catholic Church believes that the observance of the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus is of Apostolic origin. During the 5 th century, St. Augustine wrote that this Feast was of universal observance within the

Church far long before his time.

During today's First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles that spiritually enriched us with the Word of God, we heard the words that were written in the beginning of the second book of St. Luke to Theophilus. In his first book, the Gospel According to Luke, St. Luke wrote an orderly account about what Jesus had done and taught from the beginning of His ministry until the day when He was taken up to Heaven after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen. Now, St. Luke was writing about what took place following those days.

For forty days, Jesus had appeared to His disciples, presenting Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs. While speaking about the Kingdom of God, Jesus explained the Scriptures to His disciples. He ate and drank with them. He walked on the Road to Emmaus with some. He allowed some to touch Him to prove that He had a physical body.

After Jesus was lifted up and the cloud took Him out of the sight of the disciples, they kept gazing towards heaven. Suddenly, two men in white robes stood by them and asked them why they were looking up towards heaven. They told the disciples that Jesus shall return in the same way that He was taken up into Heaven.

This message was not unknown to the Jews. They were familiar with the Biblical narrative of Ascension. Elijah, a mighty prophet of the Lord, had faithfully served God amidst unfaithfulness of his time. 

On the day of his ascension, Elijah and Elisha crossed the Jordan River, where Elijah tested Elisha's resolve by asking what he desired before his departure. Elisha, recognizing the significance of this moment, requested a double portion of Elijah's spirit.

As they continued their journey, suddenly, a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared, separating Elijah and Elisha. Elijah was taken up into heaven in a whirlwind, leaving behind his mantle, which fell upon Elisha. Witnessing this miraculous event, Elisha cried out, "My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!" (2 Kings 2:12), acknowledging the heavenly hosts accompanying Elijah in his ascent.

Before his ascension Elijah passed on his mantle to Elisha. And Jesus   appointed the disciples to continue his mission on the Earth. Jesus appeared to the eleven, and he said to them, 'Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.

Just as Jesus ascended into heaven, we are called to ascend to higher realms of spiritual awareness and purpose. In today's fast-paced world, it's easy to become entangled in the cares of life, weighed down by worries and distractions. Yet, the feast of Ascension reminds us to lift our gaze beyond earthly concerns, to aspire towards the eternal truths and values that transcend time and space.

This feast gives us two important messages. Firstly, we have to Embrace Hope. Cultivate a spirit of hope and optimism, knowing that our trials and tribulations are but temporary, leading us towards a brighter tomorrow.

In 2010, a devastating earthquake struck Haiti, leaving behind a trail of destruction and despair. Amidst the rubble and chaos, one remarkable story emerged, illustrating the triumph of hope and resilience in the face of adversity.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, a young boy named Monley was trapped beneath the debris of his collapsed home. For days, he lay buried in darkness, surrounded by the eerie silence of his shattered world. Despite the overwhelming odds stacked against him, Monley refused to succumb to despair. With every passing moment, he clung to the flicker of hope burning within his heart, believing that help would come and that he would see another day.

Meanwhile, rescue teams from around the world tirelessly searched for survivors amidst the rubble. Amidst the chaos and destruction, they heard a faint cry for help emanating from beneath the debris. Guided by the sound of his voice, the rescuers located Monley and worked tirelessly to free him from his entrapment.

As they pulled Monley to safety, his face radiant with gratitude and relief, the world witnessed the triumph of hope over despair. Despite enduring unimaginable suffering, Monley's unwavering faith in the possibility of rescue sustained him through the darkest hours of his ordeal. His story serves as a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative power of hope in the midst of adversity.

In our own lives, we may encounter trials and tribulations that seem insurmountable. Yet, like Monley, we are called to cultivate a spirit of hope and optimism, knowing that our struggles are but temporary, leading us towards a brighter tomorrow. As we navigate the challenges of life, may we draw inspiration from stories like Monley's, reminding us that even in the darkest of times, there is always hope for a new beginning.

The second message the Feast of Ascension gives is Sharing Love. Extend compassion and kindness to those around us, nurturing the wounded souls in our midst and helping them soar to new heights of wholeness and healing.

In 2017, during the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, which devastated Houston, Texas, a heartwarming story of compassion and kindness emerged, demonstrating the profound impact of reaching out to those in need.

Amidst the chaos and destruction caused by the hurricane, a group of volunteers from a local church embarked on a mission to provide aid and support to the affected communities. Among them was a young woman named Sarah, who felt compelled to offer her assistance in any way she could.

As Sarah and her fellow volunteers navigated through the flood-ravaged streets, they encountered an elderly couple, Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, who had been stranded in their flooded home for days. The couple, visibly shaken and exhausted, had lost everything they owned and were in desperate need of help.

Without hesitation, Sarah and her team sprang into action, providing food, water, and medical assistance to the elderly couple. But their compassion didn't stop there. Recognizing the emotional toll that the disaster had taken on Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, Sarah and her team offered them a shoulder to lean on, listening to their stories and providing comfort and reassurance in their time of need.

Over the following weeks and months, Sarah and her fellow volunteers continued to support the Johnsons as they navigated the long and arduous process of rebuilding their lives. Through their unwavering compassion and kindness, they helped the Johnsons soar to new heights of wholeness and healing, restoring their hope and faith in humanity.

Sarah's story serves as a powerful reminder of the transformative power of compassion and kindness in the midst of adversity. In our own lives, we are called to extend a helping hand to those around us, nurturing the wounded souls in our midst and helping them find healing and restoration. Whether it's offering a listening ear, providing practical assistance, or simply showing empathy and understanding, each act of kindness has the potential to make a profound difference in someone's life.

As we draw our reflections to a close on this sacred feast of Ascension, let us carry with us the timeless truths and eternal promises that this divine event imparts.

Just as Jesus ascended into heaven, so too are we called to ascend to greater heights of spiritual awareness and purpose. Let us cultivate a spirit of hope and optimism, knowing that our trials and tribulations are but temporary, leading us towards a brighter tomorrow.

May we extend compassion and kindness to those around us, nurturing the wounded souls in our midst and helping them soar to new heights of wholeness and healing. And may we never forget the profound significance of Ascension, which reminds us of the triumphant victory of Christ over sin and death, and the promise of His eternal presence with us, now and forevermore.

As we go forth from this place, let us live lives of purpose and meaning, grounded in the divine promise of redemption and renewal. And may the peace of the Lord be with you always. Amen.