St. Augustine (354-430 AD) was the Bishop of Hippo; in one of his sermons about the Ascension of Jesus into heaven he proclaimed: "For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies." This quote might best express my theme for the homily today - His never-ending presence. Last week's homily focused on Jesus' never-ending promise that "I will not leave you orphans ..." In some respects, these two themes might be considered to be two sides of the same coin.
Today we hear the conclusion of Matthew's gospel account which tells of Jesus' ascension; this gospel tells the final words spoken by Jesus to the disciples. "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (Matthew 28:19-20)
How might we understand these last words of Jesus in light of the coronavirus pandemic which has changed many things in our lives. The way we communicate is different now, how we interact with others is changed, the way we do grocery shopping is modified, we have been guided by stay-at-home orders, and so much more is forever altered. My friends, perhaps we are being asked to let go of some of our old ideas, attitudes, dreams, habits, agendas, desires, and practices. St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians wrote: '... you must lay aside your former way of life and the old self which deteriorates through illusion and desire, and acquire a fresh, spiritual way of thinking.' (Ephesians 4:22-24) Even the angels in today's first reading, who came after Jesus departed or ascended, are saying we ought to think in new ways. In essence, these angels said, "Why are you standing here? Why are you pining for what was? New things are about to happen. You are not alone. Get moving!"
We must realize and understand that the departure of Jesus [as he ascends into heaven] was but for a moment only because he is with you and I always. We encounter him daily in our sisters and brothers, in spouse and friends, in neighbor and new acquaintances. We can always encounter him in the suffering, the abused and the marginalized; yes, even in the poorest of the poor. In every sacrament we encounter Jesus present and active in our heart and life. Just ponder this for a moment or two today - Jesus Christ walks with you all your days and nights. This is what he meant when Jesus said, " ... behold, I am with you always, until the end of the world." Amen. Alleluia!
Archbishop Michael Jackels has given us permission to re-open for Mass beginning next weekend, May 30 & 31. Masses are scheduled for the following times and places: Saturday 4:00pm in Harpers, 5:30pm in Wexford. Sunday 8:30am in New Albin, 10:00am in Lansing. Letters were mailed out detailing some of the guidelines we are implementing. Hope you can join us for Mass as we celebrate Pentecost; remember to wear something red (the color for Pentecost).