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Homily for Ascension Sunday, year B

11 May 2018, by Rev. Fr. Joel Okojie OSA in Sermons

Today we celebrate the ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven. Though this feast seems to emphasize the departure of Jesus Christ, it is actually a feast that celebrates his mysterious and unending presence with us.

Jesus had intimated his apostle about his leaving, that he would go back to the Father, from where he came. He made it clear that it was all for their advantage that he leaves, to our own advantage also (Jn. 16:5-11). When the day of departure came, St. Luke tells us in our first reading as well as Mark did in the gospel that, after Jesus had spoken with his apostles, he was taken up into heaven. The apostles watched him go up in flesh and blood. Luke says they were all gazing up toward heaven as he ascended. At that moment, it was a departure for the apostle, their master leaving them. But remember the master’s words; it is to your advantage that I go.

You may be wondering how his ascension is to our advantage, and a similar question probably filled the apostles’ minds as they gazed into the sky, watching him go. But as they watched, something amazing happened; …two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven. These men or angels may have referred to the Holy Spirit’s expected outpouring, but it was more of the continuous manifestations of the Divine presence. In his ascension in flesh and blood, Christ lifted our humanity and strengthened it with his power. The flesh’s limitations have been destroyed in Christ Jesus; he is no longer with us in the flesh but spirit. As he ascended and disappeared of the apostles, he appears to every heart, to every soul; he appears in his word, in the sacraments, in our gathering, in our worship, and in everything he has made.

God is with us; that is his name, Emmanuel. His ascension to the right hand of the Father has not separated him from us, just as his coming as a man did not separate him from the Father. The apostles gazed into the sky as Jesus ascended, but Paul reminds us in his second letter to the Corinthians (5:7) that we no longer walk by sight but by faith. It is no longer about gazing into the sky but gazing into the new life Christ gave us. That new life in Christ was what the apostles went out to proclaim after they experienced the ascension, and the Church invites us all also to proclaim that new life in Christ.

On Ascension Day, the Church pays special attention to communication in the world. We pray especially for journalists and all those working in media houses to use their profession and skills to advance the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We live in a world where the media has become powerful and projects all kinds of images and ideas into our homes and heads. Our children and future generations are exposed to all kinds of deceptive and misleading doctrine through the media’s power. I pray this day that the power of the ascended Christ and his continuous presence in our world may transform us for his glory. Amen!

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