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Homily: Ascension of our Lord  Year C:  Deacon Mike Walsh

Click here for a PDF Copy of the Homily -Ascension of our Lord Yr C

There they stand in the school yard. The child’s small hand is clutching the hand of a parent who has brought them to this new place. It is the first day of kindergarten. The bell rings- it is time to let go. Neither wants this to happen but the parent knows it must if the child is to start the journey of growth that will lead this youngster to one day become an adult.

This is a scene most of us has been a part of at some point in our lives as a child and for many of us as the adult. Each of our experiences would have been different but at some point this question would have most likely run through our minds- What in the world do I do now?

In many ways, this scene that is played out in school yards everywhere is similar to story that takes place in our readings today.

The apostles meet Jesus and their lives are forever changed as they decide to take him up on his challenge when he says to them- Come Follow Me. They travel with Him and they witness Christ’s good works and miracles, and they spend time learning from him.

Then there is a period of great suffering as they witness Jesus’ arrest, his torture and his painful death. They do not fully understand what has happened, and they feel abandoned, alone and scared. This was not supposed to be the way things worked out.

Three days later Jesus appears to Mary of Magdala, and He tells her to go and tell the others that he has risen. One can only imagine the complete joy for all the disciples who experience the Risen Lord. It is a state of pure delight, they would all surly have chosen to remain in it -forever.

That, however, was not the plan and with today’s reading everything changes again.  Jesus says to them:

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses…”

And then he leaves them.

Fr. Robert Barron   in his homily this week shares that Jesus ascended into heaven to  leave us room to do his work.

Jesus does not desert his followers- He never forsakes us- but he does call on us to be his witnesses to the rest of the world. Our faith matures when we are in service to others- this is how we become a witness for Christ.

Imagine the disciples retuning to that upper room after the Ascension, and at some point they most likely looked at Peter and ask- So what do we do now?

Peter may well have answered- “We must act with courage.”

To be a witness for Christ requires us to realize that we have been given gifts by the Holy Spirit, and if we use them, especially the gift of fortitude or courage we will be better equipped to act as a follower of the Christ. Here is one definition of the gift of Courage:

Courage is the inner strength that allows us to conquer the fear of being witnesses for Christ and doing the right thing, no matter the cost.

Courage is required doing the right thing- NO MATTER THE COST – is not easy.

How do we become a witness for Christ?

First, We must find the courage to first change ourselves.

The majority of us will know that there are things in our lives that are holding us back from being a faith-filled, fear-less witnesses for Christ.

Personal change often is the most difficult type of change– it is almost always easier to spot how others should change- but if we open the gospels, read them, pray with them and then act upon the teachings then we will be changed.

We must face suffering in our own lives, in the lives of those we love and the suffering we encounter in the world with courage. As witnesses for Christ we cannot run from the cross, but we trust in Jesus enough to pick up whatever cross we face and carry it.

We must pray for the courage to be a witness for Christ in our families. We are the ones who are called to  become like the Good Sheppard of the family , who leaves the 99 sheep to go and find the one that is lost- the person(s) others in our family may have judged to be unlovable and then love them.

Then to be a true witness we must venture outside the confines of our family and have the courage to allow our faith to mature in service to those Jesus has sent our way- the complete strangers of Matthew 25- it always seems to come back to Matthew 25.

We reach out and touch the poor, the hungry, the stranger and the prisoner. We use the gifts of the Holy Spirit, especially the gift of fortitude or courage to go out among the people and be a witness to the love of Jesus the Christ.

The apostles did not stay locked up in that Upper Room in Jerusalem, they accepted the gifts of the Holy Spirit and went out into the world and changed it- they were witnesses to the Hope that is Jesus Christ.

Therefore, as witnesses for Christ in these modern times we must also leave this Church- our Upper Room. Nourished by the Word and the Holy Eucharist, we find the courage to truly act on the call at the end of mass with enthusiasm when we are told that:

Our time here has ended let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord…

It is with the help of the Holy Spirit that we find the courage to answer this call by saying- Thanks be to God.

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