Weekly Homily from Fr Jim Hogan, Seventh Sunday of Easter (Ascension), May 8, 2016

•Acts 1:1-11 • Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:19-23 • Luke 24:46-53•

Weekly Readings:Seventh Sunday of Easter (Ascension)

(Note: when you get to the USCCB website for the readings, you will need to scroll down a bit to access the second reading from Hebrews as there are two choices listed for that second reading)

Christ is risen!  Truly he is risen!!   Two thousand years later we continue celebrating that the Gracious Mystery we name God raised Jesus from death to life, new life, unending life.   I wonder if the author wrote “The Little Prince” with the resurrection in mind.  Certainly his words are so apropos: “it is only with the heart that one can see rightly … what is essential is invisible to the eye.” 

There are some things, some realities, that we know are true.  They resonate with our experience yet defy explanation.  Our household of faith employs theological myth, metaphor and/or poetry to help us.  It may be that theological myths “never happened, but they are true!” “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly … what is essential is invisible to the eye.” 

The ascension of Jesus to heaven is one of those theological myths. The close companions of Jesus had experienced him risen and alive.  The time came when they were no longer in his physical presence. They no longer walked with him, watched him, or heard his voice.

Luke is the only New Testament author who mentions the Ascension.  He does so in his gospel with three short verses and in the book of Acts with eleven. His purpose is to help his community adjust to physical absence. There is truth here that defies our ability to fully grasp.

That may explain why the Ascension has been such a frequent subject of Christian art and iconography.  The earliest depiction of the Ascension was an early 5th century painting.  Paintings and icons depicting the Ascension continue to shape our imagination.

Luke is our only written source for “the Ascension.”  He wrote his gospel forty to fifty years after the events.  He had no awareness of the cosmos as we have today.  With this theological myth of “the Ascension,” Luke is telling his peers and us to find the Risen Cosmic Christ in deep relationship with every human being and every part of creation.

Let me try to explain what I mean.  Our new knowledge about the cosmos makes it impossible for us to say that God is up above or that “heaven” is up there. Our new knowledge and information obtained with instruments like the Hubble telescope, has convinced scientists there are 300 billion stars in our Milky Way galaxy, and more than 170 billion galaxies in the observable universe.  The enormity of the cosmos “boggles the mind.”

Scientists also have concluded that the ultimate reality of the universe is within.  “The building blocks of creation are the protons, electrons, neutrinos, quarks and bosons of energy and mass that are within each cell and molecule.”  I have no idea what all of that means, unless it means “the spark of life, the spark of the divine is within.”

Christ is risen!  Truly he is risen!!  “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly … what is essential is invisible to the eye.”  Our Easter celebration extending over these many weeks encourages us to  find the Risen Cosmic Christ in deep relationship with every human being and every part of creation.  Such faith enables us to see that which is ordinary in a most extraordinary way!  As the disciples eventually came to see, faith casts a new light on everything and places things in proper order and perspective. If we chose to live with eyes of faith, nothing can be seen as it was, and all things are now new.

The Risen One promised the Holy Spirit to complete and continue his work.  His work is to help others see that which is ordinary in a most extraordinary way.  The Holy Spirit now inspires us to do that by the manner in which we live; by inspiring us to keep things in their proper order; and through the many folks who help us be mindful that his Spirit penetrates all humankind from within!  Keep at it!  Spread the faith!  Live in hope that one day God will raise us from death to new life, unending life. Live in hope that one day we all will be united with God and Christ and one another in the fullness of life. Christ is risen!  Truly he is risen!!

 

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