May 20, 2018 Ascension



Homilies are never the creative act of one person.  Thus, in posting these homilies on St. Mary’s Cathedral’s website I would like to state first and foremost that there will be little 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 and/or the Spiritual Life.


This particular homily relies a great deal on reflections of  Pope St. Leo the Great (Pope from 440 – 461 AD)  and Cardinal Collins’ Homily, May 10, 2018, at St. Patrick’s Basilica in Ottawa, the day of the March for Life.


God bless you.

Father Shawn


The Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ, May 13, 2018


“So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.”


Today we reflect on the Ascension of Our Lord:  that Jesus has withdrawn his bodily presence from the disciples to send them out to evangelize a hostile world.


For a time he walked among them after the Resurrection.


The time between the Lord’s Resurrection and the Ascension was very eventful.  Between the Resurrection and the Ascension the Lord impresses upon the disciples, over and over again,  the fact of the reality of the  Resurrection.   During this time great sacramental mysteries were confirmed; great truths revealed.  During this time the fear of death with all its horrors was taken away, and the immortality of both body and soul affirmed.  During this time the Lord breathed on all his apostles and filled them with the Holy Spirit entrusting them with the care of His flock especially by the forgiveness of their sins.


Between the Lord’s Resurrection and Ascension two of his disciples joined Him as companions on the road.  He chided their timidity and hesitant fears.  He swept away all of their uncertainty.  On that road to Emmaus their lukewarm hearts were fired by the light of faith and began to burn within them as the Lord opened the Scriptures to them.  As he broke bread with them, celebrated the Eucharist, their eyes were opened and they recognized him.


Throughout the whole period between the Resurrection and Ascension, God’s providence was at work to instill one lesson into the hearts of the disciples, to set one truth before their eyes…


that being…our Lord Jesus Christ, who was truly born, truly suffered and truly died, should be recognized as truly risen from the dead.


The apostles, with many other disciples, had been intimidated with what they saw as the catastrophe of the cross…in the Cross their faith in the Resurrection had been shaken; but now…by all that had taken place between the Resurrection and the Ascension, they were so strengthened by the evident truth…that…when the Lord ascended into heaven, far from feeling any sadness, they were filled with great joy.


In the Ascension, the one who had descended from the Father goes back to the Father.  The Cross can no longer be seen as a catastrophe.  The lifting up of Jesus on the cross signifies, announces and begins his lifting up in the Ascension into heaven.  The Catechism so beautifully states the effect of the Ascension: “Jesus Christ, the one priest of the new and eternal Covenant, ‘entered, not into a sanctuary made by human hands…but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.’ (Heb. 9:24)  There [together in the Father’s presence] Christ permanently exercises his priesthood, for he ‘lives to make intercession’ for ‘those who draw near to God through him’. (Heb. 7:25)


Scripture says He sits at the Father’s right hand…we understand by this expression  that he in His Ascension he resumes the glory and honour of divinity in heaven…where he who exists as Son of God before all ages,…as God,…one in being with the Father,…is seated bodily after he became Incarnate and his flesh was glorified.’


This being seated at the Father’s right hand signifies the beginning of the Messiah’s Kingdom.  It is the fulfillment of the prophesies concerning the Son of Man.  The great prophet Daniel prophesied:   ’To him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages would serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.’ (Daniel 7:14)   {Catechism of the Catholic Church, 662 & 663} It is His everlasting Dominion we celebrate today.


In His Ascension we also celebrate today the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ, did not leave the disciples on their own but he wanted to impress upon them that they would need to take a more direct responsibility for the fulfillment of the mission.


“Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)


The Ascension is an act of trust where the Master makes his disciples stewards of the mysteries of faith until he comes again.  He promised them he would send the Holy Spirit.  That promise would be fulfilled at Pentecost.  And He promised to be with them even to the end of time.


The Lord entrusted them with His mission in a way that required a deep personal engagement.


He entrusted them with the carrying on of His mission …and therefore an accountability and a personal responsibility for the mission.


He treated them…as he treats us…as Catholics…as  missionaries in his vineyard.  The Ascension is the feast of our coming of age.  He entrusts His mission to the Church and therefore to each one of us.


Here we are in a hostile world.  The same hostile world into which Our Lord Jesus Christ came.


We are not abandoned.  We are empowered.  “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15) The Lord Jesus has entrusted to us the mysteries that bring light into darkness, and love into a world of violence.


We now encounter our Lord personally by Faith in God’s grace in Word and Sacrament.  The Holy Spirit is with us to give us Light…to give us courage…to guide us.


As Cardinal Collins said at the March for Life this past Thursday… “We need to be engaged.  Using all the gifts God has given us to reach out and witness to those around us who do not see …or only see dimly…witness to that which God has given us that we see clearly through the gift of Faith.”  Cardinal Collins highlighted that we will always meet opposition…we will always meet disbelief and that we must always conduct ourselves as servants of the King, Christ the King, who is Risen and has ascended into Glory…gently and humbly proposing the truth of Him.


Deeply aware that God has now entrusted us with the mission…here at St. Mary’s,  as you know, we try through many different ways to live up to  that trust and make it our own through deepening our personal engagement in deepening our relationship with the Lord.


As I mentioned at each of the Masses last weekend, this upcoming week, the missionaries of Catholic Christian Outreach, will be beginning a series of six faith sessions called Discovery.  It is the first study of Catholic Christian Outreach’s key tool of missionary outreach  to assist anyone who is led through it into a deepening of our relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ not only to know him more clearly,… personally,…but to provide a model of how to speak about the Lord to our family and friends who are unable to see as clearly as we do.


This feast of the Ascension is the feast of Jesus handing the mission on to us His Church…it is the feast where we meditate on our responsibility in the mission and our accountability for it.


As I said last week, whether you are 20 or 90, we can all deepen our responsibility and accountability for the mission Christ has entrusted to us.  You may be sitting there wondering how these young adults in their twenties can possibly tell you anything you do not know…How can they possibly have anything of value to say to you or help you deepen your relationship with the Lord?  A brief reflection on that…As you know I was in my 40th year when I was ordained…I lived in my own home, had been teaching for 10 years and had a designing business on the side.  Many people would say to me…because of my experience in “the world” I brought so much more than the priests who were much younger when they were ordained.  My vehement reply would always be that that is just not so.  I have always had great admiration for our younger priests.  “Blessed are the pure of heart for they shall see God.”  You don’t have to have experienced “the world” to preach the joys of the Kingdom.  Their zeal has always impressed me. And their yes, their courage to commit at such a young age even more so.    We have the pleasure of seeing this in the Catholic Christian Outreach missionaries and the students of Newman House on campus.  They are zealous.  They are convicted.  They love the Lord.  And very importantly they are filled with the courage to share Jesus Christ with whomever they encounter.   If the Discovery Study does nothing more than lift your heart in joy to see such zeal, conviction and love of Jesus Christ…it is very worthwhile taking.  However,…guaranteed…it will deepen your relationship with Our Lord Jesus Christ.  For those two very good reasons, I pray you will sign up for Discovery.


As I mentioned the feast of the Ascension is our coming of Age.  The Lord has commissioned us to carry on His Mission.


The Discovery Study will assist you in appropriating that reality more concretely into your life and living more deeply out of the great Hope, the Crucifixion, Resurrection , Ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit gives us.