Monday, May 25, 2020

Ascension homily 2020 May 24

Ascension homily    2020

          The readings today present a problem for 21st century people: you know, the classy, informed, educated, questioning people like us.   The problem is easy to state, but difficult to resolve.  It is a problem of geography. 
          In our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard, “While meeting with them, he (that is, Jesus) enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,  but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak;…”  So Jesus tells the Apostles to stay in Jerusalem.  Do not depart from Jerusalem.  Fine.
          But in our Gospel today we hear: “The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.”   Galilee?  That’s a good ways distant from Jerusalem.  And “the mountain”?  Which mountain? 
          So did Jesus tell the disciples to stay in Jerusalem, a la Luke, or did Jesus order them to go to a mountain in Galilee, a la Matthew?
          Clearly Jesus could not order them to be in two places at once.  Either Luke is wrong, or Matthew is.  Jerusalem or Galilee?  Where did Jesus last appear to His Apostles after the Resurrection?
          Well, and this is the difficult part for us, who think scientifically, who think that a thing is just that thing and nothing more, and a place is a geographical spot on the earth and that is it.
          Because Luke and Matthew are NOT talking about specific, identifiable places.  They are not talking geography.   Rather, they are giving us spiritual paradigms, stories to make a point.  They are not concerned about telling us accurate details, but telling us stories that are guides, or patterns for our life. 

In that spiritual sense, this, right here, is Jerusalem.  This, right here, is “the mountain” in Galilee.
          These are not geographical places in the Gospel, but spiritual places, images that can be anywhere and everywhere, and at all times. 
          Luke, written after Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, wants to show a continuity between his community of Christians and the founders of the Christian community.  Matthew wants to show the missionary aspect of the new Way of Jesus: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,…” 

          When we read these Gospel passages, we need to understand that  they are not about long ago and far away.   They are about here and now.  They are about US.  This is our lived reality.  This is Jerusalem.  This is the mountain in Galilee.  For Jesus blesses us just like He blessed His disciples in the Acts of the Apostles, and Jesus commissions us to go forth, to “make disciples of all nations” just as He did in the Gospel of Matthew. 
          These readings, and this Feast of the Ascension, are not about long ago and far away.  They speak to us here, today, and call us to follow the Lord, and to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel, right now, right where we are.   God bless! 

Monday, May 18, 2020



Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child,
A long way from home.

          This 19th Century black spiritual captures a feeling that you may be having during this time of pandemic, of sickness and death, of isolation and distance from friends and church community and relatives, of economic hardship and great loss.  To feel like a motherless child is to feel abandoned, vulnerable, lost.
          In contrast in the Gospel today Jesus assures us “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”  With Jesus we are never, ever alone.  We are never like a motherless child.  We are deeply loved and cared for.
          Jesus declares to us in the Gospel, “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live.”  Jesus is not talking here about normal physical life, but a much greater, deeper and more wonderful life: life in the Holy Spirit.
          Jesus continues: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father / and you are in me / and I in you.”   Jesus is speaking of very deep intimacy.  Of spiritual union.  This is what the life of the Holy Trinity is like: Jesus in the Father, the Holy Spirit in Jesus and in the Father, the Father in all.  Jesus is inviting us into the intimacy of God’s own inner, Trinitarian, life.
          Jesus tells us: “Whoever has my commandments and observes them is the one who loves me.”   Love is not about words, not about protestations, not about feelings.  Love is about DOING.  Observing the Lord’s commandment to love one another is the way to love the Lord.
          Jesus promises us: “And whoever loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them, and reveal myself to them.”  We come to know Jesus in loving Him, and the more we truly know Him, the more we love Him.  That overcomes any pandemic.
          Jesus give us great assurance in the Gospel today.  “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”  Simple, but great news, GOOD NEWS.  AMEN.