Homily Ascension of the Lord (Solemnity): Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo· Acts 1:1-11
· Ps 47:2-3,6-7,8-9
· Eph 1:17-23
· Matt 28:16-20
“And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself” (John 12:32, CCC662).This passage from John 12:32 is also quoted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church in order to stress the significance of what we celebrate today, the Ascension of our Lord Jesus in to Heaven. It also points to the fact even though he suffered, knocked down, he was spitted up. Though crucified the tomb was never going to be Jesus’s final bus stop. He was lifted up to draw everyone to himself, to save the world, all nations to the ends of the earth.
Recall, on the foot of the cross, as he was been lifted up on that tree-were standing everyone: the Jewish elites, who handed him over, the faithful women and men, including Joseph of Arimathea, and the Roman soldiers, who nailed him to the cross. The implication is that when he was lifted up “he drew everyone to himself.”
These Jewish elites, and those on the foot of the cross were not the only ones he drew to himself. His resurrection and ascension attracts his Apostles, his disciples, and propels them to witness beyond the boundaries of Jerusalem, but Judea and Samaria, even to the “ends of the earth.” What is the meaning of the “ends of the earth” here? For Luke, “ends of the earth” here means Rome- Gentile regions! Christ’s mission is universal! It sounds like Pope Francis!!
Preparations to do this, and the power of Christ’s ascension, which we celebrate today, are obvious in today’s first reading, Luke’s 2nd volume, Acts 1:1-11. As they disciples were gathered, they wanted to know if Christ is that expected political leader, that messiah, that anointed one (Luke 2:11), by asking “Lord are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel.” In response, Christ reminds them, it was not their duty to know when and how, or to restrict his blessings to the geographical area Judea or Palestine. As he was explaining this to his disciples, Christ was lifted up to heaven. He ascended into heaven before their very watching eyes.
In heavens Christ is seated at God’s right hand, as witnessed by Paul in the 2nd reading, Ephesians 1:17-23. Addressing the Church Ephesus Paul testifies, “Raising him from the dead God seated him at his right hand in heavens.” And an important position of strength, where he watches over us. And from where he sends the Power of the Holy Spirit to guide and lead the Church in her evangelizing missions. The power of Ascension! The Blessings from Christ’s Ascension!
In Galilee in today’s Gospel, Mathew 28:16-20, the Ascended Christ assures this disciples that “all power in heaven and on earth has been given to him. He showers his disciples with the Holy Spirit and blessings. And commissions them to go out to all nations “baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Ascension assures us that in spite of our daily challenges, poverty, violent, loss of our loved ones, terrorism, stories of book haram, corruption in political capitals, and effects of poor and bad leaderships, Christ is with us. When we are out there to keep our doctor’s appointment and undergo medical procedures or take our examination, tests, or at work, or in our families, Christ is with us!
Finally, may we appreciate the significance of today’s celebration? The challenges placed before us that we are not to keep Christ, selfishly for ourselves, but are meant share of the blessings and the joy of the Gospel with our friends and neighbors of the “ends of the earth?” and of all nations (Matt 28). WHEN I AM LIFTED UP I WILL DRAW EVERYONE TO MYSELF!
Reflection Questions:1. When you are knocked down, in your own ‘location” do you believe with faith and hard work you could be lifted up?
2. How do you relate to the lessons of today’s scriptures?
3. Who is Christ for you and how have you witnessed Christ to your neighbors, or to the Lukan's “ends of the earth” or the “ all nations” of Matthew 28?