Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.(Mk 16:15-20)
Happy Ascension Sunday! Once, in explaining the feast of the ascension to a group of 3rd graders, I was asked, “If Jesus loves us and lives forever, why did he leave?” It’s an excellent question. If we consider the Ascension simply in terms of Jesus leaving us, then we might wonder why He did it. In other words, the Resurrection would seem to be more effective if Jesus still walked the earth and taught, healed and preached like He did 2000 years ago. But in our celebration of the Ascension we come to understand that it is better for us if Jesus ascends to the Father. We can see this in two ways. First, Jesus’ ascension marks the culminating marriage of humanity with divinity as Jesus enters body and soul into heaven. Now once and for all, humanity sits at “the right hand of the Father” and intercedes for us all. Jesus’ ascension is the supreme moment of hope, pointing to our ultimate vocation. Where He once was, we now are; where He is now, we are destined to be. Second, the Ascension ushers in the Age of the Holy Spirit. In the Gospel of John, Jesus explains the ascension when He says “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go, for if I do not go, my Spirit, the Counselor, will not come to you; but if
I go, I will send him to you.” Jesus ascends so that He can send His Spirit into our heart. This is why he instructs His followers to return to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Christ promises: “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.” In order to fulfill His command to be witnesses to the Gospel, the disciples need the empowerment of the Spirit.
So like the middle film of a Trilogy, the Ascension is a feast of transition. Situated between the joy of Easter and the fire of Pentecost, it is a celebration which is tinged with the sadness of Jesus’ departure but infused with the promise of the coming of the Spirit and the pledge of our eternal destiny. Here at St. Dominic’s, the priory is also in a period of transition. The assignments for next year have been made and Fr. Emmanuel has been reassigned to our ministry in Stanford, where he will be reunited with our beloved Fr. Xavier in living at St. Raymond’s and ministering at the Catholic Community at Stanford. His last weekend will be June 21, and we will have a farewell for him after the 5:30 pm Mass on Sunday. Also I am happy to announce that last week, we had our prioral election and Fr. Steve Maekawa was reelected. Moreover, Fr. Steve will also join me and Fr. Isaiah on the parish staff. Fr. Steve has been on staff in the past, and so we are excited to have him once again join the team of Dominicans. On this Ascension Sunday, we give thanks for all the ways that the promise of the Holy Spirit guides and directs us to preach the Gospel with power.
~ Fr. Michael Hurley, O.P.