Thursday, May 01, 2008

Ascension-The Life of Christ, Book II

(Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord-Year A;This homily was given 1 May, 2008, at St. Mary's Church, Cranston, R.I.; read Acts 1:1-11)

Everyone loves a good story. There is something about a great story that leaves us sitting on the edge of our seat, or eagerly turning the pages to find out how the book will end. And some stories are so good that we simply cannot get enough of them from only one book or one movie. They require a sequel, another edition or subsequent film just to complete the enthralling tale begun in the first.

The life of Christ is a story very much like that. There have been innumerable volumes written about Him, and still we only scratch the surface. The entire New Testament is filled with people telling His story, from the first disciples and Apostles like St. Peter and St. Paul, to people whose names we do not even know (Letter to the Hebrews).

But one of the authors we do know is St. Luke, and we listen to what he has to say in the first reading this morning, from the Acts of the Apostles. St. Luke is one of the four evangelists, one of the four great gospel writers. In the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles he reminds his readers of what he has already written about Christ:

In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
—Acts 1:1-2

That was the subject of his first book, the Gospel of St. Luke. But now, in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke continues to tell that remarkable and powerful story of Christ by describing the life of the early Church. It is St. Luke’s sequel to the life of Christ, Book II in the remarkable story of the Son of God and what He came to do here on earth.

Truly it is a breathtaking story. The Acts of the Apostles goes on to describe the challenges and the joys of the first century Church under the leadership of the apostles appointed by Jesus Christ Himself. It tells of the sacrifices of the members of the Church, and of many who gave their lives for their faith in the God who suffered and died for them. By the end of the Acts of the Apostles, the faith of the Church has spread to the far reaches of the world as they knew it.

In many ways, that story is one that still being told. Certainly the Acts of the Apostles is complete. There will be no new edition to that book, or to any of the books of Sacred Scripture. As the Second Vatican Council teaches, we await no new revelation.

But the story that St. Luke begins in the Acts of the Apostles about the activity and mission of the early Church is continued even now in our own day. It is essential that we understand that fact as we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension.

Jesus Christ ascends into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father. This event is not something separate from our own daily lives. The ascension is not simply something that “happens” to Christ “back then,” having nothing to do with us.

When Christ ascends into heaven, God is now ready to continue His saving work by sending the Holy Spirit upon the Church. He sends us His gifts and divine assistance so that He can continue His ministry of reconciliation through us. Our story is an intimate part of His story. Are we able to recognize that in our daily lives?

When we experience the tragedies and triumphs of life, when we are filled with sorrow and distress or joy and hope, it is Christ who continues to live in us.

This Ascension Thursday, may we be able to see that the story told by St. Luke in the Acts of the Apostles some 2,000 years ago, and the story which will be completed by God Himself at the end of time, is the very same story that is unfolding before our eyes right here, right now.

May we truly recognize that Jesus Christ is continuing to tell His story, and live out His life, in us.