ascensionHomily for Mass – The Ascension of the Lord (Year C)

(Saint Bernardine’s Church, Regents Park: Saturday 6pm;  Sunday 7.30am & 9am)

12 May 2013

[Readings:  Acts 1:1-11;  Ps 46;  Heb 9:24-28; 10:19-23;  Lk 24:46-53]

* On this mothers’ day (weekend) I take this opportunity to wish all the mums of the parish a very happy mothers’ day, and with it the prayer that God will bless and strengthen you in your vocation of motherhood.  [Sat: there were some flowers left over from the school’s mother’s day liturgy, so the mums here tonight are welcome to take one from the table at the door of the church].  Mothers’ Day is a good reminder, too, that the month of May is the month traditionally devoted to Our Lady.  Pope Francis recently suggested that it would be a good idea, during May, for families to say the rosary together.  He reminded us that prayer strengthens family life.

francis may rosary families* Also this weekend I’ve placed on the table by the sacristy a few faith formation resources, including audio CDs and leaflets.  Everything there is free, so you’re invited to browse the table after Mass and take anything that interests you.

* Parish Finance talk this weekend.

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The Ascension of the Our Lord into heaven is a pivotal point in the history of the Church.  Jesus had prepared his disciples for the fact that he would have to depart from them visibly.  He went so far as to say that unless he went, the Holy Spirit would not be sent to them.  Just before he ascends, he tells the disciples to wait in the city, until they are baptised in the Holy Spirit which he will send.  And then he tells them that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them, and then they will be his witnesses even to the ends of the earth.

As we celebrate the various liturgical feasts, we’re invited to pause for a moment at a particular mystery of Our Lord’s life and of God’s dealing with His people.  Today we stand with the disciples as the Lord is taken from their sight.  From that moment on – and until his second coming –  the visible presence of Jesus in the world would be his followers – the Church.  The Ascension, therefore, marks the beginning of the era of the Church, an era which will literally “take off” with the sending of the Holy Spirit.

We can imagine that as the disciples saw their Lord and Master disappearing from their sight, they would have had the dawning realization that a responsibility was falling on them.  What had transpired with Jesus, and all that he had said and done, was not something just for them.  There was a work and a message that was to be spread abroad.  Jesus had also told them to wait: to wait until they had been clothed with the power of the Holy Spirit.

This aspect of waiting – waiting on the Lord – is something that we can take from today’s feast.  Our lives are not just meant to be mindless activity, of endless doing.  We need to wait on the Lord through prayer.  We need to take that time to be able to feel the promptings of God in our heart so that we know what we should be doing.  We need to pray for the Holy Spirit to always fan into a flame that faith that is in us, to strengthen us for the work that God calls us to.  Our weekly celebration of Sunday Mass and our fruitful reception of Holy Communion renews the graces of baptism and confirmation in us.  If we are to proclaim the message of salvation, then we need time to reflect on that message;  we need to read the scriptures, to have the word of God on our lips and in our minds so that it will sink deep into our hearts.

In asking the disciples to wait until the Holy Spirit had come upon them was a reminder that it was not themselves that they were taking to others, but God:  God’s love, God’s word for God’s people.  And they could only do that under the power of the Holy Spirit.

God’s working in our lives is not magic;  and God is the greatest respecter of our freedom.  He knocks, and waits for us to invite him in.  We should ask ourselves: in what ways in our lives do we wait upon the Lord?  In what ways do we open our hearts, and make space in our lives, for the Lord to send His Holy Spirit anew into us?  Do we train ourselves to recognize the promptings of the Holy Spirit?

In the Church we have the tradition of praying novenas: nine consecutive days of prayer, praying for a particular grace.  The most ancient of these novenas is the Pentecost Novena … recalling that the apostles with the Blessed Virgin Mary, waited in prayer after the Ascension of Jesus until the sending of the Holy Spirit.  I invite you over the coming week – each day – to pray a simple prayer inviting the Holy Spirit to come to you in a new way.  Pray to God, asking how he wants you to be his witness before the world at this time in your life, and ask the Holy Spirit to give you power to put God’s wishes for you into action.

If you google “Pentecost Novena” you can also find special prayers that you can say over the next week, praying especially for the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit to be evident in your life.

Let us pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us, upon all believers, and upon the whole world … and may we wait for the Lord, opening our lives to the power he wants to send us.

I finish with a “Prayer for the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit” which we pray in anticipation of the feast of Pentecost next week:

O Lord Jesus Christ Who, before ascending into heaven did promise to send the Holy Spirit to finish Your work in the souls of Your Apostles and Disciples, deign to grant the same Holy Spirit to me that He may perfect in my soul, the work of Your grace and Your love. Grant me the Spirit of Wisdom that I may despise the perishable things of this world and aspire only after the things that are eternal, the Spirit of Understanding to enlighten my mind with the light of Your divine truth, the Spirit on Counsel that I may ever choose the surest way of pleasing God and gaining heaven, the Spirit of Fortitude that I may bear my cross with You  and that I may overcome with courage all the obstacles that oppose my salvation, the Spirit of Knowledge that I may know God and know myself and grow perfect in the science of the Saints, the Spirit of Piety that I may find the service of God sweet and amiable, and the Spirit of Fear that I may be filled with a loving reverence towards God and may dread in any way to displease Him. Mark me, dear Lord with the sign of Your true disciples, and animate me in all things with Your Spirit. Amen.

See the full Pentecost Novena prayers here: