Thursday, May 25, 2017

Three Important Lessons We Learn from the Ascension of Jesus

(Ascension Thursday 2017: This homily was given on May 25, 2017 at St. Pius X Church, Westerly, R.I., by Fr. Raymond Suriani.  Read Acts 1: 1-14; Ephesians 1: 17-23; Matthew 28: 16-20.)

[For the audio version of this homily, click here: Ascension Thursday 2017]

I’ll share with you this morning three simple but important lessons that we learn from the event we commemorate today: the Ascension of Jesus Christ into heaven.

Lesson #1: God always gives us what we need, not what we want

The Apostles had been with Jesus for three years.  They ate with him, they travelled with him, they listened to him preach, they saw him work miracles.  He was everything to them.  He was at the center of their lives (as he should have been!).  And I’m sure they wanted that to continue!  I’m quite certain they wanted Jesus to remain with them on earth for the rest of their lives. 

And I think if we had been in their situation we would have wanted the very same thing

But that’s not what they needed!  They didn’t need Jesus on the outside, they needed Jesus and his power on the inside (in their souls), so that they’d be able to live the life he was calling them to live, and fulfill their mission and purpose in the world.  That’s why Jesus told them at the Last Supper, “It is better for you if I go.  For if I do not go, the Advocate [i.e., the Holy Spirit] will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send him to you.”

So that’s lesson #1: God always gives us what we need, not what we want

Lesson #2: Obey, even if you don’t fully understand

Jesus gave his Apostles a command just before he ascended.  As we were told in today’s first reading from Acts 1: “While meeting with them, [Jesus] enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for ‘the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak’.”  Now I’m sure they didn’t fully understand what that promise was (or more properly “Who” that promise was), but they obeyed.  They stayed in Jerusalem, spending most of their time in the upper room (where the Last Supper had taken place)—which is where they were when the promise was fulfilled and they received the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Please note: if they had not obeyed the Lord by staying in the city, they would not have experienced that grace—that grace which changed their lives forever.

We may not always understand why God asks us to do certain things in this life—like love our enemies and forgive those who’ve hurt us—but the Ascension teaches us that it’s always better to obey the Lord in those situations, even when we don’t understand the why.

And finally, lesson #3: When it comes to prayer, never give up. 

When the Apostles went to the upper room after the Ascension of Jesus, they didn’t just sit there and reminisce about “the good old days”.  The Bible says they “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”  But their prayer was not answered instantaneously, was it?  Nine days passed without anything happening.  It was only on the tenth day that the prayer was finally answered and the Spirit descended on everyone who was there in the room.

Thank God they didn’t give up on the first day—or the second—or the third—or the fourth—or on any of the days between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday!  If they had, they would missed out on the incredible blessing that God wanted to give them.

And that would have been tragic for them—and literally for the whole world!

So there you have it …

·         God always gives us what we need, not what we want 
·         Obey, even if you don’t fully understand
·         When it comes to prayer, never give up

Three important lessons from the Ascension of Jesus.  May God help us to know them, to believe them—and to live our lives accordingly.