May 17, 2015: Ascension of Our Lord
Click to hear Audio Homily
This month, all across our country students are graduating from high schools and colleges. I have wondered what goes through the minds of parents during the graduation. One mom whose daughter was graduating wrote this reflection. “The moment my daughter was born, her entry in the universe was transformative for me, as she turned me from person into parent — a permanent alteration, a complete reconfiguration of all one knows to be true in the world. This tiny, spectacular creature who has, at different times, kept me up at night, sent me running and chasing, challenged some of my most basic beliefs and completely unhinged me, has also taught me how to love unconditionally, how to stretch beyond the limitations of my experience and how to imagine a different world. Somehow, despite the fact that she came out of my body a mere 18 years ago, her vision of life is completely her own, her identity proudly independent and strong. I am in awe of her entire person, and her continued presence, the blessed intertwining of our journeys, has been nothing short of a divine gift.”
There are persons in our lives, who have transformed us permanently yet are no longer with us -- perhaps it’s our parents, grandparents, our siblings, a friend, or a mentor. How does that person who changed us, still remain with us in a tangible way? Today we are celebrating the Ascension of Our Lord which commemorates the elevation of Christ into Heaven, as witnessed by his disciples. Before Jesus ascended, he gave the disciples a mission to “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature." How were his disciples going to fulfill this mission without Jesus’ presence? They had been with Jesus for three years, yet they didn’t understand their role. Jesus told them if they believed in His name, signs would accompany them: in His name, they will drive out demons, speak new languages, pick up serpents with their hands, cure the sick by laying on their hands. How many of you here have these signs happen to you?
My guess is that most of us do not experience these signs. Is something wrong with us? Are we lacking faith, prayer, or confidence? Or perhaps, is Jesus giving us a mission that is for our time and our age? Pope Francis explains our mission this way: we are to place our lives in service to others and to become a blessing to others; we are to be missionaries of love and joy; we are to go out to the world, to embrace life with hope, embrace those who are poor as our brothers and sisters. The Pope also gives us this admonition while we accomplish our earthly mission: we should not turn the pursuit of success, pleasure and possessions into idols, nor allow these to control our lives because we risk becoming slaves to these.
As plausible as this mission sounds to us, we still can’t do it on our own. We need grace. And this is what Jesus was talking about when he said, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses.” We need the Holy Spirit within us to give us strength and inspiration to be instruments of transformation for others. This coming week, I invite you to pray to the Holy Spirit each day so that you will receive the power and grace necessary to accomplish your mission on earth.
-Fr Paul Yi