You notice we have three stained glass windows from the old church here, representing the Resurrection, the Ascension and Pentecost. Scripture scholars tell us that Christ’s resurrection, his Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit are all part of the Easter event. The church has separated them in order to allow us to contemplate the meaning of two aspects of a single, indivisible event; Christ’s rising from the dead.
The gospel tells of Christ’s return to His Father. His work on earth is complete. His parting gift was to open the minds of the Apostles to understand the scriptures: that the Christ is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day and that the forgiveness of sins was to be proclaimed to the entire world. Hopefully they would understand in a deeper way what his life, his teachings and his death were all about. The telling of the Ascension in the gospel looks backward not forward. The Ascension is presented as the conclusion of the earthly ministry of Jesus.
I don’t know if you remember a famous photo shown on TV and in the press on May 1, 2003. It was of President George W. Bush standing on the deck of the aircraft carrier Abraham Lincoln. He was announcing the end of major combat operations in Iraq. Behind him was a large sign, ’Mission Accomplished.’ It turned out to be very controversial photo op because most of the casualties suffered in Iraq happened after this picture was taken.
This feast of the Ascension celebrates the truth of Christ’s Mission Accomplished. He came to reconcile the world to His Father by his passion, death and resurrection. His mission accomplished, he returns to the Father.
Here is what Pope Francis had to say about this feast of the Ascension:
“Dear brothers and sisters, the Ascension does not indicate the absence of Jesus, but tells us that He is alive among us in a new way; He is no longer in a definite place in the world as He was before the Ascension; He is now in the lordship of God, present in all space and time, next to each of us. We are never alone in our lives: We have this advocate who waits for us, we are never alone, the Crucified and Risen Lord guides us, and with us there are many brothers and sisters who in silence and obscurity, in their family life and work, in their problems and difficulties, their joys and hopes, live their faith every day and, together with us, bring to the world the lordship of God’s love.”
Mission accomplished for Christ but mission beginning for us. As Christian men and woman we are to carry on Christ’s work in the world. We are to live this Mass outside these walls in the lives we live, the work we do, the service we give and prayers we pray, otherwise our time here is not well spent. You remember those famous words attributed to Christ, “I have no hands but yours, no eyes but yours, no ears but yours, no feet but yours, no voice but yours, to proclaim my message of forgiveness and peace. I have no one but you to do my work on earth.”
As we continue to celebrate this feast of a mission accomplished we pray for ourselves and for each other that we have the courage and strength to accomplish our mission of bringing Christ into every aspect of our lives, remembers the words of Pope Francis, “we are never alone, the Crucified and Risen Lord guides us, and with us there are many brothers and sisters who in silence and obscurity, in their family life and work, in their problems and difficulties, their joys and hopes, live their faith every day and, together with us, bring to the world the lordship of God’s love.”