Summary: In faith we tell God, “I believe this because you have revealed it for my good, even and especially when I can’t understand it.”
Ascension Day 2021
“You’ve got to be kidding. This is impossible. It’s all impossible.” That’s what the skeptic is bound to say about everything we’ve been reading since Good Friday. Jesus was nailed to a cross, pierced in His heart, dead as the lambs being sacrificed at the same time in the Jewish Temple, and then three days later He’s seen alive with the tomb empty and the winding sheets neatly folded. And here, forty days later, He’s taken up to heaven and two guys appear out of thin air and tell us He’s coming back at some indeterminate date in the same way. How can that be possible? It all just sounds like Jesus is putting on a big show as He leaves. Angels, clouds–everything but fireworks. It’s too much to believe.
Well, as the angel said to Mary right at the beginning of the life of the God-man, Jesus Christ, “with God all things are possible.” Skeptics have been casting doubt on every miracle chronicled in the Scriptures for hundreds of years. Parting the waters of the Red Sea? Impossible. Manna feeding thousands in the desert for forty years? Impossible. Fire coming from heaven at the word of Elijah? Impossible. A baby being born from a Virgin? Impossible. If you take out all of the miraculous words and actions and signs from the Scriptures, what do you have? Bible for Dummies. It would fit in large print in your purse. You rip the heart out of the Scriptures because you rip out all the gifts that God in His goodness has given to humans. Literally, Bible for Dummies. Totally useless.
We call the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus the first two Glorious Mysteries. Mystery refers to a tangible contact between God and humans, an event that cannot be explained by science. These mysteries are only accessible by means of the great gift of faith. Chesterton famously wrote: “faith means believing the incredible or it is no virtue at all.” In faith we tell God, “I believe this because you have revealed it for my good, even and especially when I can’t understand it.”
Now let’s take a moment to close eyes and look inside ourselves. All of us at some time feel an existential emptiness, an incompleteness. We can try to fill this hole in our hearts with pleasures, power, plaques on our wall, holes in one or 300's in the bowling alley. But that hole can’t be filled by earthly things. St. Paul tells us that Jesus ascended higher than the heavens in order to fill all things by the working of the Holy Spirit. First He gives us gifts of ministry on earth to build up the Church, the Body of Christ. Look at our parish. He gives gifts of healing through the Rachel ministry, of learning through our catechists and RCIA team. He gives gifts of worship through our greeters and ushers and musicians. He equips all of us for those works of ministry, even those who are home-bound with gifts of prayer for those in need. Jesus didn’t ascend to heaven to make us say “wow, what a guy!” He ascended so that He could gift us with spiritual gifts, and bring joy and hope to the whole world.
The goal, the whole point of this parish, this diocese, this province, this earthly Church is to pray and work so that we all attain unity of faith and knowledge of Jesus, Son of God. That’s why we must all take time to pray for our brother and sister Catholics in Germany, who are being led into heresy and schism, a terrible crime. Jesus wants us to help each other, especially when things get tough, when the requirements of faith make it necessary to yield our own wills to Christ’s.
So today we pray for the fulness of Christ in our world. Each of us has a challenge, and the only way to happiness is to choose the narrow path, a path that will probably involve suffering and yielding some cherished ideas that are actually false and bad for us. Only you and Christ know what that may be. But our faith tells us that God only wants good for us. He will not give us more challenges than we can handle with His grace. Even challenges that look impossible to handle. Why is it that with God the impossible is possible? Because our faith tells us that God is good. . .all the time, and all the time, God is good.