Sunday, May 16th 2021 By Rev. Michael P. Hanifin
This weekend we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. In the past this Feast was celebrated on a Thursday and was a Holy Day of Obligation. At the time fewer and fewer Catholics came to Mass and therefore missed the Feast Day and so the Bishops of the United States in many locales moved the celebration of the Feast of the Ascension to the nearest Sunday which is this Sunday.
Our readings for the Ascension of the Lord remind us that we ar
e called to be set apart as disciples of Christ. In our Gospel, Jesus makes it clear that as Christian disciples, we do not belong to the world. We might stop and ask ourselves, “Who do we belong to?” We belong to our Loving and Gracious God. How we spend our time, what we do with our talents and how we spend our material and financial resources and treasure are a good indicator of who or what we belong to.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that a disciple is one who accepts Jesus’ message to follow him. “Jesus associated his disciples with his own life, revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to the disciples and gave them a share in his mission, joy, and his suffering” (pg. 875)
Being a disciple of Christ will not always be easy. As the disciples of the early church experienced, “I gave them your word, and the world hated them” (John 17:14). But it is because we were not made for the world. We were made to be saints, truly a calling that is out of this world.
Although we do not belong to the world, Jesus clearly prayed, “I do not ask that you take them out of the world but that you keep them from the evil one” (John 17:15). We are called to live in this world and to not become consumed by it. We need to keep our minds and hearts fixed on our goal — eternal life.
Jesus calls his disciples out from the world so that he can better evangelize the world. As Jesus said in the Gospel, “Go into the whole world and proclaim to Gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved…” (Mark 16:15).
Jesus did not abandon his disciples after he ascended into heaven but through the Holy Spirit, worked with them and confirmed his word through the signs that accompanied their preaching. His ascension is a good reminder for us that we, too, are called to be His disciples, to evangelize the four corners of the earth, and that heaven awaits all who received Jesus’ call to discipleship. Let us strive to live our lives as a reflection of this goal in mind.