O Most Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph

O Most Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph
In you we place all our faith and all our trust.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension

+ JMJ +


Homily on the Homily on the Ascension of the Lord, Our Lady of Grace Parish, 2009:

“If you want something done right, then do it yourself.” Or, as another old saying goes, “If it must be done your way and only your way, then you better do it yourself.”

The feast of the Ascension celebrates the fact that just as things were really getting going in the great task of transforming and changing the world, Jesus disappeared from sight. Jesus was taken up into heaven leaving his followers with the basic truths they needed to know but with only a very sketchy blueprint of what they should do next and how they should in fact proceed in the great work of bringing the world to God.

Things would have been a little better if Jesus had chosen the most educated and powerful people on earth to lead his great mission to transform the world. Instead, Jesus chose uneducated fishermen, and simple, unknown and unimportant people from one of the most backward areas of the world – from Galilee, mention of which made other Jews laugh in mockery.

“Can anything good come out of Nazareth, in Galilee they would say.

This first band of Jesus’ disciples was so vulnerable and filled with fear that when Jesus was arrested and crucified they locked themselves into a room and hid there, afraid to show their faces in public. Peter, the leader of the disciples, had completely collapsed in response to the questions of an unimportant servant girl. He had denied that he even knew Jesus. How could this very frail group of human beings change and transform the history of the human race?

Jesus told them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”

If they had understood the difficulty and the human impossibility of doing what Jesus had commanded them to do, these poor and simple men and women would have burst into tears of disbelief and terror saying,  

“Knowing who we are how could Jesus ask us to do such a thing?”

On August 26, 1910 a girl was born to a poor family in Albania, a country that most of us could not find on a map, in a part of the world dominated by religious strife and later by communism. At the age of 18 Agnes decided to become a sister. That meant leaving her country, her culture and her language to join the Sisters of Loreto in Ireland.

Agnes wanted to be a missionary, and she was assigned to teach in a school for the wealthy in India. After teaching for many years she heard a call to leave her religious community and to give her life to working among the poor.

Answering the voice inside, she left not only backward Albania and her language and culture, she also left the much better off Irish Sisters and her ministry to the wealthy. She began a new and powerful ministry to the desperately poor of India and the world.

Today we know Agnes as Mother Teresa of Calcutta. The rich and powerful began to notice the work of this poor woman. She was doing what governments and the powerful found themselves unable to do. She received high awards from the Indian government and the Nobel Peace prize. By 1997 she had established 610 foundations in 123 countries of the world. When she died she was given a state funeral by the government of India, a rare honor for a woman who was in fact not Indian. In 2002 Pope John Paul declared her Blessed – the step before sainthood. All of this for a poor woman from no place whom God had chosen to make a deep impact on the whole world.

Jesus said, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”

Mother Teresa said of herself: “By blood, I am Albanian, by citizenship, an Indian, by faith, I am a Catholic nun. As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus.”

On the day that he ascended into heaven, Jesus chose to save and transform the world through you and me. Each of us matters immensely to the plan of God at work in the world today. While we may think of ourselves as too small, in the eyes of God, we are big enough to do what we are to do if we accept God’s plan for our lives and the divine power which Jesus promised to send from on high.

Jesus knew that the ones he was sending into the world were too insignificant to make a lasting difference if they tried to do it alone. Jesus told his followers very clearly, “do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of my Father…in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

You and I were baptized in the Holy Spirit on the day of our Baptism and our Confirmation. We will celebrate the power of the Holy Spirit to transform our lives and our world next Sunday on Pentecost.
St. Paul told the first Christians at Corinth: “But we have this treasure in clay vessels, so that the exceeding greatness of the power may be seen as coming from God, and not from ourselves.” (2 Cor. 4:7)

Weak as we are and however sinful we may be, God has chosen to transform the world through you and me to make it clear that while God works through us, transforming the world is God’s work and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Great things happen in the lives of those who trust in the Holy Spirit.

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