May 21, 2023
Acts 1:1-11; Ps 47:2-3, 6-9; Eph 1:17-23; Mt 28:16-20
Today, annual collection for the Catholic Communication Campaign.
The first part of today’s homily will draw heavily from Bishop Barron’s recent talk on the Ascension. When we say that Jesus ascended into we think of Heaven as ‘way up there’. In fact that is how this famous event is often depicted in pieces of art. That’s how the first reading from Acts of the Apostles depicts the event. He is raised up and the apostles are left gazing up into the sky.
The bishop states, however, the Ascension represents a sort of transition or translation of Jesus as, ‘that which goes beyond our ordinary sense of space and time.’ That which is ‘proper to God.’ To be in ‘Eternity’ is to be outside of time; to be above time. Transition from this earthly dimension of space and time to the dimension of God. Not a ‘space journey’ where Jesus is now ‘way up there.’ Next week at Pentecost we will hear how God is making our access or relationship with Him ever more deeply and ever more personal.
Now for MY more specific thoughts: If we can for the moment, accept that Jesus intends for us to continue His work on earth with all the power and authority of heaven which He grants to the apostles and to the Church. Then what? What does that mean to us in 2023 America?
We start with our immediate vocations given to us by God. Most of you are or have been married and you brought children into the world. Most of you baptized them and promised to raise them as disciples. We were supposed to teach them all of the commandments of God. The baptismal promises specifically say to do this by word and example. This of course, presumes that parents were familiar with the commandments and were married to someone who was also committed to such a thing. Sadly, even the clergy have sort of morphed into what I affectionately call the ‘sacrament factory’ where we provide the most rudimentary preparation possible, do the rituals and then hope this magical movement of grace transforms the children. And they grow up loving Jesus and yearning for more and more of God’s wisdom, knowledge, understanding and strength. Sometimes that seems to actually work, but overall most of us probably don’t have regular conversations with our children and grandchildren about discipleship.
And understandably, perhaps. True discipleship is not an easy interface with the culture were living in. As Christians, we are in fact, expected to see the world ‘through the eyes of our hearts’ as exhorted in the second reading today from Ephesians. For an even more mindboggling thought, consider how the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains ‘the heart’. (This is written out in the bulletin today, so don’t try to digest it all right now).
The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant.
How’s that for a thought ‘which goes beyond our ordinary sense of space and time’? It sounds like another dimension. It is. It’s the ‘God space’ that Bishop Barron was alluding to.
The times we are living in absolutely demands ‘God space’ thinking. Our legislators, you remember them, the ones that come from American families and whom we elect into public office? They could use a little ‘God space’ as they deliberate over whether the US should default on our debts. I would wager a guess that most of our legislators are baptized Christians…. What broke down?
After attending a few of the documentary films from this week’s Amazing EarthFest held in Kanab, it appears that humans need to learn how to tap into the God space, to learn how to see with ‘the eyes of our hearts’. Several of the films centered on the human contribution to global warming, but also recognized that all our attitudes and behaviors are connected and need adjusting. Of course, out here in the reddest part of the red state, we don’t actually believe that our appetite for fossil fuels is contributing significantly to the warming of the planet.
But human induced warming would be only one symptom of what is setting up our children for some potentially catastrophic consequences. Our untampered sexual appetites lead to abortion, highly stressed single parent families. Our appetites for more square footage and more recreational distractions and more cheap food options and more technology contribute to greater disparity between haves and have nots. Disparity eventually leads to resentment, despair, fear and violence…which tends to increase the emotional overload of public school teachers, social service workers, law enforcement and health care workers.
Our Satan-inspired human thinking is crying out for the wisdom of ‘God space.’ The good news is that the God space is available to us, today, right now! Down side, of course is that we will need to make some major changes in our attitudes and lifestyles and spiritual practices. But hey, what else better do we have to do than to make life more livable for our children and grandchildren?
Please consider the reflection questions in today’s bulletin to help us frame some of the changes we need to make and to acknowledge the many we ways that we have already been living in God’s space and time.
Acts 1:8 From today’s first reading: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
When did you experience the power of God, even unexpectedly, in your ability to reach out and connect with someone who was much different than yourself? What type of wisdom, counsel or understanding did you share with them?
Ephesians 1:18 From today’s second reading: “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call…”
This is how the ‘heart’ is defined in the Section on Prayer in the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Paragraph 2563: The heart is the dwelling-place where I am, where I live; according to the Semitic or Biblical expression, the heart is the place “to which I withdraw.” The heart is our hidden center, beyond the grasp of our reason and of others; only the Spirit of God can fathom the human heart and know it fully. The heart is the place of decision, deeper than our psychic drives. It is the place of truth, where we choose life or death. It is the place of encounter, because as image of God we live in relation: it is the place of covenant. WOW, THAT’S A BIG THOUGHT!!
What instruction have you been given to help you see with this type of ‘vision’? Does having and sharing HOPE require a different type of ‘seeing’ than what is common in our American culture? What is the difference in your opinion between hope and optimism?
Mt. 28:18-20 From today’s Gospel: “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.”
Besides the Ten Commandments (name them now), what commandments did/does God give us? How does the Catholic Church address commandments in the Catechism? If you are a parent or godparent of a baptized child, how have you explained the role of ‘disciple’ to those under your responsibility? How do you model discipleship to them?