Ascension of Our Lord

May 8th, 2016

Father Shawn J Hughes



Homilies are never the creative act of one person.  So as we begin to post these homilies on our website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be nothing original in the following. My homilies are a result of my prayer, reading and study as it pertains to the particular gospel of the week.  Thus, I beg, borrow and steal from the wisdom of those who have gone before me and together with the Holy Spirit acting in my own prayer considering the needs of our particular parish community here at St. Mary’s, a homily appears by the weekend. If there is something that edifies you I can take no credit for it.  ‘Tis the result of the work of the Holy Spirit and those from whom I have gleaned wisdom over time.  If there is something that you might wish to discuss I am always available and would welcome any opportunity to speak about the Scriptures.  


God bless you

Father Shawn


On this Ascension Sunday… imagine yourself there on that day the Lord Ascended into heaven…


Imagine…being among those first disciples…standing there as Jesus gives us understanding of all the Scriptures…he has just shown us the wounds in his hands, feet and side…Proving that he is really Jesus, risen from the dead…Imagine slowly coming to the realization…that all of this had been prophesied from the beginning…and now makes perfect sense.  Imagine seeing him lifted up, taken from our sight… Imagine…. thinking…yes, yes, this is God,..realizing that all that had once seem to have defeated him… injustice, violence, hatred , rejection and even death itself…has been taken up into the definitive victory of the Resurrection and Ascension of the Lord…realizing for the first time…THE VICTORY HAS BEEN WON…imagine the joy that flows from such realization……  imagine the worship which flows from such realization …..  Imagine as you stand there, as Jesus disappears from sight……..realizing that Jesus’ preaching, suffering, death, resurrection and ascension were not the end of something… but a whole new beginning.  Realizing ……fully now ….. that the Kingdom of God will never end.


Imagine the joy that filled their hearts. This day, this Ascension Sunday,  almost 2000 years later…let us let that same joy, creep in and fill each of our own hearts.  We can have that same joy.  And if we don’t…we should prayerfully ask for it.


Jesus ascends so that He can send down upon us what the Father has promised… POWER FROM ON HIGH.


The disciples were to wait in Jerusalem…the visible Jesus that they could see and touch entered into the sanctuary of heaven…to send His and the Father’s POWER…the Holy Spirit…into his new body, his mystical body, into his disciples,….we call it the Church…


Imagine their joy (our joy)… knowing that now we are given the dignity to be his witnesses…Imagine the joy that He has trusted us…commissioned us…sent us…has passed the torch to us…to preach in His name…to preach repentance…to preach the forgiveness of sins…to witness to all we have seen…to reveal His Glory to all we encounter.


That coming of Power from on high will come at that first Pentecost, which we will celebrate next Sunday… Jesus has risen…Jesus has ascended….Jesus has sent his Power into his mystical body the Church…we receive this power, the Holy Spirit, in the Sacraments…this is how Jesus now acts to effect his Kingdom on earth.  The Kingdom of God is the coming of God to reign on earth as he reigns in heaven…that began with the Son of God becoming one of us and walking beside us.  This continues with the sending of the Holy Spirit…who in the Sacraments abides within us…we have His Power from on High…we have the promise of the Father…in each of the Sacraments.


Imagine…as we realize that we have been given power in the Spirit to be witnesses in our Jerusalem,…here in Kingston.   Jesus ascends so that we can receive His power and choose to participate in the work of the coming of the Kingdom.  We now are the apostles, the ones sent, filled with the Holy Spirit, to bring this about.


It is a very sobering thought to ask ourselves…if, God forbid, St. Mary’s Cathedral closed…Would we be missed?  Would those who live nearby even notice…would they bemoan the fact that a great witness to the Kingdom of God is no longer here. Many, out there, will only receive the power from on high, through their contact with us.


It is an equally sobering meditation to ask myself:  “have people been drawn closer to Christ through their encounter with me.”

In his Gospel and in the Acts of the Apostles, the Evangelist  Luke closely links the Ascension with the theme of testimony: “You are witnesses of these things” (Luke 24:48).

The “you” indicates in the first place the apostles who were with Jesus. After the apostles, this testimony — passes to their successors, the bishops and priests. But the “you” also regards all the baptized and believers in Christ.  One of the main documents of the Second Vatican Council stated that “Each individual layperson must stand before the world as a witness to the resurrection and life of the Lord Jesus and a symbol of the living God” (“Lumen Gentium,” 38).

It is not easy to be a witness. But as we know actions always speak stronger than words.

Pope Paul VI once famously said:   for the Church, the first means of spreading the gospel is the witness of an authentically Christian life, …He said:  “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”

Jesus’ tells the apostles, “You are witnesses to these things….”  And then sends them out to tell about what they have witnessed.  Jesus has passed over into the Church…He says the same to us, “You are witnesses to these things…”witnesses in faith…. to his teaching, his gospel, his suffering, death, resurrection and ascension.  The gospel is never to be kept to ourselves.  Our relationship with Christ is never to be kept to ourselves…in our lives outside of here, we too are to be witnesses of these things…….

Cardinal Dolan, the Archbishop of New York City, gives a very moving testimony to the power of lived witness.

As a young priest he occasionally celebrated the liturgies at a hospice run by Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity for those dying of AIDS.  He was there on Good Friday, 1989.  After the Passion in the main chapel  had been completed he went with the cross that was venerated to the bedridden patients so they too could venerate the cross.  As he went from bed to bed, he noticed one very emaciated man in the corner who seemed very agitated.  He was beckoning him to come to him.  As the young Father Dolan approach his bed, one of the sisters stopped him and warned him that this man was unusually violent, and hateful to all.  The poor man kept beckoning… so Father Dolan cautiously approached and extended the crucifix to him, which he grabbed and kissed,…not the feet, but the face of the crucified Lord.  Then he collapsed back into his bed exhausted.

The next day, Holy Saturday, a sister called to tell Father Dolan that the man wanted to see him.  So he went.  Accompanied by two of the sisters as he came near the man he whispered: “I want to be baptized!”  Father Dolan asked him why he desired to enter the Church.  The man replied:  “I know nothing about Christianity or the Catholic Church.  In fact, I have hated religion all my life.  All I do know is that for three months I have been here dying.  These sisters are always happy!  When I curse them, they look at me with compassion in their eyes.  Even when they clean up my vomit, bathe my sores, and change my diapers, they are smiling; when they spoon-feed me, there is a radiance in their eyes.  All I know is that they have joy and I don’t.  When I ask in desperation why they are so happy, all they reply is ‘Jesus.’”  Then he blurted out: “I want this Jesus.  Baptize me and give me this Jesus!  Give me joy!”

The power of our lived witness.  The power of joy.  The power of caring.

On this Mother’s Day weekend… we give thanks for  the power of the lived witness of each of our mothers… the countless self-sacrificial acts…the power of lived witness…the power of caring…..

“Modern man listens more willing to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.”