Archive for the ‘Ascension’ Category

Why Did Jesus Go?

May 29, 2022

The Ascension
By Fr. Victor Feltes

This week, our Catholic school celebrated our eighth graders’ graduation with a Mass and an awards ceremony. Afterwards, while the graduates were having their pictures taken, a teacher and I stood off to the side, looking on. He remarked, “It’s sad to see them go.” I replied, “Yeah, but it would be even sadder if they stayed.

Just whimsically imagine remaining an eighth grader well into your twenties. You don’t have a full-time job because you’re a full-time student without a high school degree. Of course you’re unmarried and have no kids—you’re still in middle school! And sure, after a decade of eighth grade, having had the same lessons over and over, you could ace all of your homework and tests (if you still had any motivation left to do so) but you would not be learning very much. It is bittersweet to see our graduates go forth from us, but it is better that they go. Though in one sense they are leaving us, they are not really gone. Yet this departure is necessary for them to reach their full human maturity and to fulfill God’s plans for their glory.

Today we celebrate Jesus’ bodily ascension into Heaven. The traditional day for celebrating the Ascension is forty days after Easter, which was last Thursday, or “Ascension Thursday.” Our diocese, like most dioceses in our country, transfers this celebration to this Sunday. I guess we like keeping Jesus around longer. But seriously, the ascension of Jesus into heaven raises this question: “Why did he go? Why didn’t Jesus stay?

Now Jesus does tell us, “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name I am there in their midst.” He says, “Behold, I am with you always until the end of the age.” And he is truly present for us in the Holy Eucharist. But Jesus’ presence now remains invisible or veiled to our eyes. By bodily ascending and disappearing into the clouds Jesus is visibly departing from us until he comes again with a glory manifested to all. “But I tell you the truth,” he says, “it is better for you that I go.” Why is this better? What would it be like if Jesus dwelt among us throughout the centuries like he did with his disciples those forty days, walking with them and talking with them, following his Resurrection?

There is no physical reason why Jesus could not have done this. His risen body is a glorified body no longer subject to injury or death, so that’s not the reason he did not remain. Did he go because on earth he’s reduced to being in one particular place, or limited in how much he can see, know, or do? Remember, Jesus is not merely human but divine, all-knowing and all-powerful, and his bi-locating saints (such as Venerable Mary of Ágreda or St. Padre Pio) who have manifested the miracle of being more than one place at once surely do not possess any supernatural ability which Jesus lacks.

So God the Father could have chosen “by his own authority” for his Son to remain visibly active here with us, in one, or thousands, or millions of locations at once, throughout the centuries up to our day. Jesus could be the pastor in every parish, the teacher in every classroom, the doctor in every hospital, and the leader in every country. He is the perfect priest, the best teacher, the greatest healer, and the rightful ruler of all. Who is better-qualified than Jesus to do any of these things? Nobody. People would demand this of him and resent him for not doing it. But if Jesus were visibly present and doing everything, then we would be left doing very little.

Would it be a better world if Jesus personally did everything? In some ways, yes. Earth would be closer to paradise in many respects. But would this lead to more souls being saved? I’m not so sure. Adam and Eve lived in an earthly paradise, too, before they fell. And the glory of Christ being manifested to the world in an undeniable way might gain peoples’ submission, but not necessarily their conversion or love. The demons who fell had no doubts about God’s existence and yet they chose to disobey him as far as they were able.

If Jesus did everything of importance on earth without us, one result which seems evident to me is that we would remain in an unending adolescence, like someone attending the eighth grade well into their adulthood. This is why it was better for us that Jesus ascended. We are children of God called to what St. Paul calls “the stature of the fullness of Christ.” If everything which matters were just Jesus’ job to handle, how would we grow from our immaturity into the full maturity of Christ?

Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, it is better for you that I go. For if I do not go, the (Holy Spirit) will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” By the Holy Spirit, the Church (which is Christ’s Body) is animated in this world. As members of his body we are moved by the Holy Spirit to love and to work united with Christ, growing more into his likeness and glory along the way. Would Jesus not ascending into heaven, remaining constantly here on earth and doing everything without us, have been easier than this present Christian life of ours? Perhaps, but Jesus desires that we would graduate with him to higher things and ascend to a greater glory with himself.

So what do we do now?

May 16, 2021

Ascension Sunday

Christ's Ascension by Fresken von Gebhard Fugel, 1893-1894.Where are we now in the Easter season? Let’s recap. Jesus resurrects and first appeared to his disciples on Easter Sunday. And for forty days, he is with them off and on, appearing and disappearing, teaching them about the Kingdom of God and preparing them for their important work ahead: that of sharing the Good News and shepherding his Church. On the last of those forty days, Jesus ascends to his Father in heaven. And for the next nine days, his disciples (as per Christ’s instructions) remain in Jerusalem praying for and awaiting the promise of the Father about which they had heard Jesus speak. Finally, on the fiftieth day, on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, the disciples are intensely filled with the Holy Spirit. They become empowered to begin sharing their stories about who Jesus is and what he has done, inviting others to know him, love him, serve him, and be saved through him. Today we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension, looking forward to the Feast of Pentecost next Sunday.

But wait a second… didn’t I just mention that there were nine days in between the Ascension and Pentecost? Indeed, the Feast of the Ascension is traditionally observed on Ascension Thursday, a few days ago earlier this week. But in our diocese and the vast majority of dioceses in the U.S., the bishops officially transfer the feast to today,
the following Sunday, so that more of the faithful will encounter and celebrate this feast. Another quirky thing about today’s Mass is how the story of Jesus’ Ascension is recounted more thoroughly by our first reading, from the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, than by our Gospel reading, which briefly mentions the event.

The Acts of the Apostles says, when Jesus’ disciples had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” In other words, ‘Will you now forcefully make your kingdom come, restoring the earthly kingdom of David and Solomon, or perhaps now even impose a still greater kingdom where God’s will is done as fully on earth as it is in heaven?’ Jesus answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.” When Jesus comes again in manifest, unveiled glory, with all his angels with him, no one will be able to ignore Christ the King or harass his flock any longer, but regarding the time of that return, no one knows the day or the hour except God. In the meantime, Jesus says, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem… and to the ends of the earth.”

When he had said this, as the disciples were looking on, Jesus was lifted up and a cloud took him from their sight. So there they were, looking intently at the sky, not quite exactly sure what they were supposed to do now. I wonder how many hours they would have stood gapping at the sky if not for what happened next. Suddenly, two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. (Though not explicitly stated, these seem to be angels in human appearance. Well-informed young men in white had also been at the tomb on Easter Sunday morning, announcing and helping the disciples understand Jesus having risen from the dead.) At the Ascension, the messengers said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” With this reassuring redirection, the disciples return from the Mount of Olives into the city of Jerusalem to pray and prepare for the Holy Spirit’s next move. The Apostles had received the Holy Spirit before in some measure. On Easter Sunday evening, Jesus had breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.” But they required a further gift of the Spirit to know and act on what God specifically wished them to do.

Today, we are in similar circumstances as those first Christians. We each first received the Holy Spirit at our baptisms and entered a deeper, more extensive relationship with him through our confirmations. Now, as we anticipate the Feast of Pentecost, I urge you to pray for the Holy Spirit to enlighten and empower you for what God wants you to do next. Our community is now happily returning nearer to normal, but what will our new habits and endeavors be? This post-pandemic world needs God—it always has—and the people in your world you need Jesus Christ and his Church. By your words and actions, Jesus wants you to show and share with others who Jesus is for you and what he has done for you, inviting others to know him, love him, serve him, and be saved through him. Jesus Christ is not forcibly imposing his Kingdom but sharing and advancing it subtly, intricately, mysteriously, and most wonderfully, especially through persons who are open to doing his will.

I believe God wants to begin one or more new things with you. So I urge you to ask him in these days, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” To ask the question is the start of saying “Yes” to him, but to refuse to ask the question is to answer him “No.” So ask, and seek, and see what new and great things the Lord would do through you during this new springtime for the Church.

My Ascension

May 23, 2020

Ascension of the Lord—Year A
By Deacon Dick Kostner

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. We also need to celebrate the the fact that Jesus remains with us for all eternity individually for all to rejoice by and through the Sacraments gifted to us by Jesus and the vocation directed to all who have received the Sacrament of Baptism by being called to be the body, hands, mind, heart, and feet of Jesus here on Earth by and through his marriage with us as members of the Church of Christ. Wow, what a privilege, but what a responsibility.

Our readings tell us that we have been chosen to respond to the call to be the Body of Christ here on earth as we continue our journey, our “Ascension” to Jesus who resides with the Father and the Holy Spirit. It is through the Sacraments that we receive a helper to guide us on our mission. The Paraclete joins to our body and spirit whenever we celebrate the gift of Sacraments given us by Jesus when he walked in body here on earth. Through the gift of Sacrament we become one in Spirit with God who helps guide us on missions he has requested of us.

As told us in our second reading from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians: “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe…

How do we know that Jesus is still with us. Good question, but all we need to do is watch and listen for he will speak to us and help us discern the will and hopes he has for us. I will share with you a personal example of knowing God is still here with us. Everyone knows the struggle and fear that exists about re-opening with the virus still spreading. It has not been easy for your clergy to celebrate private Masses without you, the larger Body of Christ, being present. How do we as clergy know what to do or how to continue ministry during these trying times? The answer lies in prayer. Personal prayer to the one who promised to be with us always on our journey to the Father’s house. Prayer need not be formal or fancy for prayer is nothing more than talking with God about problems or challenges we are experiencing. It is through communication, it is through prayer, that relationships are formed.

Recently I have been asking God for direction on knowing what God would like me to do during these challenging times when we are asked to curb our direct contacts with others. I have also asked for some communication from Jesus as to my personal mission he desires me to embark upon. A couple of weeks ago just before celebrating Mass with Father Victor, he requested that I pick out a couple of names for our parish calendar raffle. I reached in, stirred the tickets, and grabbed two raffle tickets which were sitting next to each other. The first name I picked was Steve Turner. Steve was one of the people who joined St. Paul’s Catholic Church a year ago and had attended our Parish RCIA classes. I remarked to Father that Steve is one of those guys that has always been lucky; whether in love in finding his gifted spouse, or in fishing at the right spot. The second name I picked was, guess who? Deacon Dick. What a coincidence!

It was during the Mass that I realized the event that had just happened. I had received an answer to what God wished me to continue to do. He told me that I was important in helping others find their way to the Church of Christ and to the vocation of being the Body of Christ. And how has this affected Steve’s life? He is now an adult server in our parish and he and his wife help out with our RCIA program, with him heralding the fact that since his marriage to Elaine he has been in Church more than all of his previous years of his life. What a coincidence!

Guess what? Jesus is not up in the clouds, He is still with us through the Body of Christ and his Sacraments. Thank you Jesus for being our supernatural friend. Wishing to all of you as the Body of Christ, a blessed Ascension!

An Ascension & Mother’s Day Homily

May 8, 2016

The Belly of a Woman with Child

Today, two great celebrations providentially align: the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ into Heaven and Mother’s Day. After his resurrection, Jesus spent 40 days teaching, instructing, and preparing his disciples for their new life ahead. The number 40 often appears in the Bible in relation to times of preparation.  Noah spent 40 days and nights on the ark as the waters of the flood were renewing the world. Moses and the Hebrews spent 40 years wandering in the desert before God’s people entered the Promised Land. Before beginning his public ministry, Jesus spent 40 days and 40 nights praying and fasting in the desert. And after his death on the cross, Jesus’ body spent (by tradition) 40 hours in the tomb awaiting the resurrection. The number 40 also has a place in your life story as well. Each of you remained 40 weeks, more or less, within your mother’s womb being prepared for a new life. I ask you to reflect on that time.

Attached to your mother’s vine you grew into the mature fruit of her womb. You were nourished and grew within her. You were never far from her heart or mind. You existed within her, connected to her at the center of your being.  (Your belly button marks the spot where you were once attached to her.) She fed you with her very self. She provided for all your needs. Apart from her you could do nothing. You remained in her and you found your rest within her.

In the womb, at those earliest stages of life, our minds did not comprehend very much, but what if you could have understood then everything that your mother was doing for you? Surely you would have directed your thoughts to her often.  And, from time to time, you would have turned to her with the eyes of your heart to bask in her love for you.

What if, imagining further, that you could have spoken with your mom when you were in her womb? Wouldn’t you have taken the opportunity to speak with her every day? Wouldn’t you have thanked her with a deep gratitude and let her know how much you love her? I suppose a baby could ignore its mother in such as situation and continue to live on, at least biologically, but the child would be deprived without this first and special relationship with mom.

As you and your mother would continue to talk throughout the days and months of pregnancy she would eventually present you with a most-frightening prospect. She might put it this way, “My child, soon, in a little while, you are going to begin a new stage of your life. You will be departing from the life you know, and then you’ll experience a whole world of people and things you have never known before. Once you are born, you will meet me in a new way.

You might say, “I’m scared! I don’t want to go—not now, not ever!” But she would reassure you, “I realize this concept is scary for you, but trust me when I say that it is better that you go. In fact, someday soon you’ll look back and think it a silly thought to be back again where you are now. This transition is going to hurt a little bit… trust me, I know… but when the appointed time comes, I’ll be right here with you. So don’t be afraid, it’s going to be O.K.

Our life in our mother’s womb is like our life in Jesus Christ. You are attached to Him as to a vine. You are nourished and grow within Him. You are never far from His heart or mind. You exist within Him; you live and move and have your being in Him, connected to Him at the center of your being. He feeds you with His very self in the Eucharist. He provides for all your needs. Apart from Him, you can do nothing. You remain in Him and can find your rest in Him.

Knowing and believing this, shouldn’t we direct our thoughts to Him often? Shouldn’t we, from time to time, turn to Him with the eyes of our hearts to bask in His love for us. We have the ability to talk with Jesus Christ whenever we want in prayer. We should take the opportunity to speak with Him every day, thanking Him out of deep gratitude and telling Him how much we love Him. A person who ignores Him will still continue to live, at biologically, but they will not be fully alive without this primary and special relationship with Christ. We must to pray every day if we want to remain in Him and bear much fruit.

We don’t want to die and that’s perfectly natural. But Jesus says to us, “Soon, in a little while, you are going to begin a new stage of your life. You will be departing from the life you know, and then you’ll experience a whole world of people and things you have never known before. Once you die, you will meet me in a new way. I realize this concept is scary for you, but trust me when I say that it is better that you go. In fact, someday soon you’ll look back and think it a silly thought to be back again where you are now. This transition is going to hurt a little bit… trust me, I know… but when the appointed time comes, I’ll be right there with you. So don’t be afraid, it’s going to be O.K.

Was Jesus afraid when he ascended into heaven? In the Garden of Gethsemane the night before his died Jesus was anxious and distressed at the sufferings before Him. But at the Ascension, as he rose high above the ground, I do not think He was afraid at all. He was beyond all fear and He was going home. The anecdotal evidence of near death experiences indicates that for friends of God the journey beyond this life is peaceful and joyful. A friend of mine once went into cardiac arrest and had a vision like that of going home. When they defibrillated her heart in the Emergency Room and brought her back to into this world she felt quite angry and tore off the wires they had stuck on her skin because she so much wanted to go back to where she had just been.

As our mothers would have told us before we were born from womb into world, and as Jesus tells us before our birth from this life to next, we do not need to be afraid. Instead let us live in gratitude and peace. Today, let us thank God for the life, love, and tender care we have received from our mothers and through Jesus Christ. May God bless our mothers and may Jesus Christ be praised.

Why Didn’t Jesus Stay? — The Ascension—Year C

May 11, 2013

Today, Jesus ascends with his human nature into heaven. He takes his seat at the right hand of the Father. There Jesus enjoys the greatest honor and intimacy with his Father and from heaven he reigns and intercedes for us. Yet I wonder on this Feast of the Ascension, “Why didn’t Jesus remain visibly with us, here on earth? Why not lead us as our king down here so that we could see and hear him?”

Some would argue that Jesus was limited by his humanity—that Jesus’ human nature prevented him from being at more than one place at a time. They would say that Jesus could preach today in Chicago or heal the sick in Rio de Janeiro, but he cannot do both simultaneously—reigning from heaven allows Jesus to be more present to every place and every person. However, Jesus is not limited in this way by his glorified human nature. Several saints have manifested the gift of bi-location during their lifetimes. Most recently and famously, St. Padre Pio was often at more than one place at the same time. Surely, if Jesus’ saints can possess this power then the Lord Jesus would as well. Furthermore, Jesus demonstrates that his humanity can be more than one place simultaneously through his Real Presence in the Eucharist. Though veiled under the appearances of bread and wine, the entire living person of Jesus (including his body and blood, soul and divinity) is truly present in the Eucharist.

So if Jesus can be physically present in as many places as he wishes, why is he not visibly reigning in millions of places in roles here on earth? For instance, why isn’t Jesus the pastor at every parish church and the bishop in every diocese? One major reason why Jesus rejects this approach is that he wants us to share in his work, his mission, and his glory. Jesus wants you and I to have a part in saving our family and friends and the world. Jesus prayed to his Father at the Last Supper, “As you sent me into the world, so I sent them into the world,” (John 17:18) and Jesus told his disciples after his resurrection, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). You and I are sent to do and continue the works that we have seen Jesus do. As Jesus once said, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). It is not easy to live as Jesus Christ in the world, but this is our great vocation. For this reason, we must receive the force from on high. Pray for the deeper gifts that the Lord wants to give you through the Holy Spirit, whose coming in power we will celebrate next Sunday.

Hoy, Jesús asciende con su naturaleza humana al cielo. Jesús se sentó a la derecha del Padre. Allí Jesús disfruta del mayor honor y la intimidad con su Padre y él reina e intercede por nosotros desde el cielo. Sin embargo, me pregunto en esta fiesta de la Ascensión: “¿Por qué Jesús no permanecen visiblemente con nosotros, aquí en la tierra? ¿Por qué no quedarse aquí como nuestro rey para que nosotros pudiéramos verlo y escucharlo?”

Algunos podrían argumentar que Jesús estaba limitado por su humanidad-que la naturaleza humana de Jesús no poder estar en más de un lugar al mismo tiempo. Dirían que Jesús pudo predicar hoy en Chicago o curar a los enfermos en Río de Janeiro, pero lo no puede hacer ambas cosas al mismo tiempo—reinante desde el cielo permite que Jesús sea más presente a todo lugar y persona. Sin embargo, Jesús no se limita de esta manera por su naturaleza humana glorificada. Varios santos han manifestado el don de la bilocación durante sus vidas. Más recientemente y famosamente, San Padre Pio fue visto a menudo en más de un lugar al mismo tiempo. Seguramente, si los santos de Jesús pueden poseer este poder, entonces el Señor Jesús lo haría también. De hecho, Jesús demuestra que su humanidad puede haber más de un lugar al mismo tiempo a través de su presencia real en la Eucaristía. Aunque velado bajo las especies del pan y del vino, toda de la persona viva de Jesús (incluyendo su cuerpo y sangre, alma y divinidad) está realmente presente en la Eucaristía.

Si Jesús puede estar presente físicamente en tantos lugares como él desea, ¿por qué Jesús no reinando visiblemente en millones de funciones aquí en la tierra? Por ejemplo, ¿por qué Jesús no es el pastor en cada parroquia y el obispo en cada diócesis? Una gran razón Jesús rechazado este método es que él quiere que compartamos en su trabajo, su misión y su gloria. Jesús quiere que ustedes y yo tener una parte en salvando a nuestras familias, y nuestros amigos, y nuestro mundo. Jesús oró a su Padre en la Última Cena: “Como tú me enviaste al mundo, yo los envío también al mundo,” (Juan 17:18) y Jesús dijo a sus discípulos después de su resurrección: “Como el Padre me envió a mí, así yo los envío a ustedes,” (Juan 20:21). Ustedes y yo estamos envió a hacer y continuar los trabajos que hemos visto hacer a Jesús. Como Jesús dijo una vez: “Ciertamente les aseguro que el que cree en mí las obras que yo hago también él las hará, y aun las hará mayores, porque yo vuelvo al Padre,” (Juan 14:12). No es fácil vivir como Jesús Cristo en el mundo, pero este es nuestro gran vocación. Por esta razón, debemos recibir la fuerza de lo alto. Ore por los dones más profundos que el Señor Jesús quiere darte a través delEspíritu Santo, cuya venida en el poder vamos a celebrar el próximo domingo.

The Glorious Mysteries, Meditations with the Saints

October 27, 2010

The 1st Glorious Mystery:
The Resurrection of Jesus from the Dead

St. John Bosco, an Italian priest, founded a famous school for boys in the mid-1800’s and is the patron saint of students. He is known to have worked many miracles, but one from 1849 stands out. Returning from a journey, he learned that Charles, a 15 year old student, had died. He went immediately to the teenager’s home where the family informed him that Charles had been dead for over 10 hours. The body was laid out in the living room, already dressed for burial.

Fr. Bosco asked everyone to leave except the mother and the aunt. After some time in silent prayer, he cried out: “Charles, rise!” Charles emitted a long sigh, stirred, opened his eyes, stared at his mother and asked, “Why did you dress me like this?” Then, realizing Fr. Bosco was present, he told him how he had cried out for him and how he had been waiting for him. He exclaimed, “Father, I should be in hell!” He told of how a few weeks before he had fallen into serious sin. Then he said he had a “dream” of being on the edge of a huge fiery furnace, and as he was about to be thrown into the flames, a beautiful lady appeared and prevented it. She said, “There is still hope for you, Charles. You have not yet been judged.” Then he heard the voice of Fr. Bosco calling him back.

Charles asked Fr. Bosco to hear his confession. After his confession, the mourners filled the room again, and Fr. Bosco said, “Charles, now that the gates of heaven lie wide open for you, would you rather go there or stay here with us?” A profound silence filled the room. Charles, with tears in his eyes said, “I’d rather go to heaven.” Then he leaned back on the pillows, closed his eyes and breathed his last.

Unless Jesus’ Second Coming happens first, each of us here will die, and rise. As we meditate on Jesus’ resurrection, let us consider how ready we are to meet Him.

The 2nd Glorious Mystery:
The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven.

St. Padre Pio is another Italian priest from not so long ago who also worked remarkable miracles. During WWII, Allied planes flew bombing raids over Italy. Almost all of the centers of the region were subjected to repeated bombardment, but no bombs ravaged the town of San Giovanni Rotondo. Every time the aviators approached that place, they saw a monk flying in the air who prevented them from dropping their bombs. Understandably, reports of this flying friar did not amuse the superior offices.

Bernardo Rosini, a general of the Italian Air Force, recounts this story: “One day, an American commander wanted to lead a squadron of bombers himself to destroy the German arms depository of war material that was located at San Giovanni Rotondo. The commander related that as he approached the target, he and his pilots saw rising in the sky the figure of a friar with his hands held outward. The bombs released of their own accord, falling in the woods, and the planes completely reversed course without any intervention by the pilots.”  

Someone told the commanding general that in a convent at this town, there lived a saintly man. At war’s end, the general wanted to go meet this person. “He was accompanied by several pilots… He went to the convent of the Capuchins. As soon as he crossed the threshold of the sacristy, he found himself in front of several friars, among whom he immediately recognized the one who had ‘stopped’ his planes. Padre Pio went forward to meet him, and putting his hand on his shoulder, he said, `So, you’re the one who wanted to get rid of us all!’”

As we meditate on the Ascension of Jesus, to the right hand of the Father in Heaven, let us pray that He would establish justice and peace, in this country and the whole world, in our time.

The 3rd Glorious Mystery:
The Descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost

We usually don’t associate India with Christianity, but that nation has over 24 million Christians.  That’s about as many people as live in Texas, our second largest state. If you were to ask them how the faith reached their land they would point to St. Thomas the Apostle.

What led St. Thomas, who at first refused to even believe in the Good News, to travel over 2,500 miles to bring them the Gospel? It was not merely seeing the risen Christ. Jesus knew His disciples would need more to strengthen them then merely their memories of Him. St. Thomas journeyed because the Lord had sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, to fill them with gifts, like wisdom, courage, and zeal.

If we are in the state of grace, God the Holy Spirit dwells in us too, and He wants to empower us with His gifts. As we meditate on the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, let us pray for whatever spiritual gift that we need the most.

The 4th Glorious Mystery:
The Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

No Church, in the East or the West, claims to contain the body of St. Mary. This is because “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” This is because Jesus would not suffer Mary, His sinless, faithful beloved, to undergo corruption.

Death is a consequence of human sin, and without human intervention, as in embalming or mummification, our dead bodies will ordinarily experience its corruption. But, sometimes, the Lord preserves the dead bodies of his saints, to give a sign of their holiness, and to show that death is not all that awaits us.

Among the numerous saints whose incorrupt bodies you can still see today are:  St. John Bosco, St. John Vianney, St. Catherine Laboure (the visionary of the Miraculous Medal), St. Bernadette Soubirous (the visionary of Lourdes), and St. Maria Goretti.

As we meditate on the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, let us pray for purity in our lives.

The 5th Glorious Mystery:
The Coronation of Mary as the Queen of Heaven and Earth

Once, when St. Maximillian Kolbe was a boy, his behavior began trying his mother’s patience. She said in exasperation, “Maximillian, what will become of you?” As St. Maximillian writes, “Later, that night, I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.” St. Maximillian would receive both crowns, as a holy Franciscan brother, and as a victim of the Nazis at Auschwitz, were he took the place of another innocent man who was condemned to die.

Jesus crowns his holy ones. He wills that those who share in His sacrifice should also share in His glory. As we meditate on the Coronation of Mary, let us pray to accept whatever crowns of burden and glory the Lord wants to give to us.

A Premature Passion? — Palm Sunday—Year C

March 28, 2010

So why did we just proclaim the Passion?  Isn’t the Passion a bit premature? It’s Palm Sunday, not Holy Thursday or Good Friday. Aren’t we jumping the gun? No, like the two disciples Jesus instructed in our opening Gospel, we’re being told what we are going to see. The Church has us recount the Passion on Palm Sunday to prepare us; to prepare us for encountering Christ’s Passover through the special ceremonies and symbols of this Holy Week.

Now the celebration of the Eucharist actually makes the events of the Pascal mystery present for us every time we come to Mass. Jesus’ Last Supper, His Passion and Death, His Resurrection and Ascension into glory, are all truly presented to us at each and every Mass; but during Holy Week, we unpack and encounter these events in unique and special ways.

Today you have waved palms, an ancient symbol of victory, to Christ, welcoming Him into our city. On Holy Thursday, you can go where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved and give company to Christ in his lonely solitude, with Him in His agony before His arrest and with Him as He spends the night awaiting His trial. On Good Friday, you can reverence the crucifix; you can kiss the wood of Jesus’ cross and kiss His body hanging upon it, as He dies for us. And at the Easter Vigil, you can see the sign of the light of Jesus Christ resurrecting out of darkness and death.

And so I invite you to encounter Jesus’ Pascal mystery, at this Mass, at every Mass, and through the special signs and ceremonies of this Holy Week.