Thursday, 25 May 2006

'Why do you stand looking in the sky?'

Today we find the disciples gazing upwards, striving to catch one last glimpse of their Master before He disappears beneath the cloud. The Ascension gives us great hope. Jesus descended from Heaven at the Annunciation – the Word made flesh – and took upon Himself every part of the human condition, except sin. He even experienced rejection, suffering and death. Now that He ascends to Heaven He takes our frail human nature with Him. Where He goes we hope to follow – and it is made possible through His life, death, resurrection and ascension. That’s why we can say: ‘God goes up with shouts of joy; the Lord goes up with trumpet blast…sing praise!’

Today is not just about gazing upwards. Indeed, the opening words of the Entrance Antiphon are: ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking in the sky?’ Gazing upon God is the privilege of the saints in Heaven. In order to become saints we have much to do here on earth: ‘Go out to the whole world, proclaim the Good News to all creation.’ This life is all about sowing; later we will have the chance to reap.

Cardinal Newman once said: ‘The whole Church, all elect souls, each in its turn, is called to this necessary work. Once it was the turn of others, and now it is our turn. Once it was the Apostles’ turn…[Then] the excellent of the earth, the white-robed army of Martyrs, and the cheerful company of Confessors, each in his turn, each in his day…’

‘Each in his turn, each in his day.’ We hear in the Gospel of how signs and miracles would be associated with believers. This does not just concern the apostles or the saints, but us as well. The Church is essentially the same now as it was then, and who knows what might be possible with the help of God. Now it rests with us to be the hands and feet and tongue of Our Lord in this world, to spread the Gospel and do His will, using the gifts and charisms that have been given to us.

‘Why do you standing looking in the sky?,’ when on the contrary we should be looking all around us for opportunities to serve the Lord. We know that the Lord will be with us – indeed, He comes to us at Mass in the form of bread and wine. We commune with Him and are then sent out to do His work. The Ascension, then, is not a feast of God’s absence but a feast of God’s presence. Alleluia!


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