The Feast of the Ascension we celebrate this weekend is such an important event in the life of our Lord and in our relationship to him! Back in 1999 the Holy See gave permission for dioceses to transfer the Feast of the Ascension from “Ascension Thursday” to the following Sunday or “Ascension Sunday” as I like to call it. Many provinces within our United States (including our own Archdiocese and Diocese of St. Cloud) has decided to do so. The reasons for this are many but just a list a few: 1) One, is that since this is a Holy Day of Obligation, by transferring it to a Sunday, more people will have an opportunity to attend rather than on a weekday when it may be more difficult. No one should have to miss this Mass! 2) Secondly, this event in Jesus’ life reflects an important shift in our relationship and understanding of Him which we need to know. 3) Thirdly, the tradition of moving feasts is not uncommon in the history of the Church. For example, the Feast of Epiphany has been moved to the Sunday following January 1st which honors Mary, the Mother of God. Easter also moves from year to year as the first Sunday, after the first Full Moon, after the Spring Equinox. This was established as far back as 300 A.D.. So, moving Church feasts is nothing new. So why is the Ascension of Jesus so important for us to celebrate as Church?
I think the main reason is so we understand that after Jesus had risen from the dead and appeared to his apostles and disciples for 40 days, He made it clear that our relationship with him in the future would be different. Whereas before Jesus was limited by his human body being only at one place and at one time, now that He ascended to the Father in the glory of heaven, He now is able to be what we call “Omni-present” to everyone! The word “omni,” comes from the Latin root meaning “all” “everything” “all ways.” Words with “omni” include: omnitheatre, omnibus, omniscience, omnipotent, omnipatient, etc. With each of these words comes the insight that ‘all’ is included, nothing is left out! Because of Jesus’ Ascension, we say He is now “Omnipresent” to everyone and all at once! Hence our Lord is able to say, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in their midst.” (Mt 18, 20f) And, just before Jesus ascended He says “And behold I will be with you always until the end of time.” ( Mt 28,16f) Jesus’ Ascension means He is present and accessible to everyone. What a gift to us from the risen Lord and what a great way for us to live in the presence of the risen Christ! I would also add (my own theological thoughts) saying Jesus had to ascend into heaven before he could truly send the fullness of the Holy Spirit to us at Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is fullness of the relationship between the Father and the Son within the Trinity, and for that Spirit to be fully with us, the risen Lord had to be fully present to the Father in heaven that the Spirit might descend upon the Church as she is born! It’s something to think about. Regardless, the Ascension of Jesus manifests our God in so many ways that we can celebrate, and it’s something we can look forward to when we finally pass from this life and receive the reward of His promise of our own glory to come with our Lord. Where Jesus has gone, we hope to follow!
A final note: You may (or may not have received) scam texts or emails purported to come from Fr. Timothy or myself asking you for a ‘favor’ in regard to getting gift cards for ITunes or asking for credit numbers to help those who are less fortunate or sick with Covid-19. Please do not respond! These scammers create false emails and phone number accounts in our name to gain your private information or bank accounts. This is occurring in other parishes as well and even in our Bishop’s Chancery Office! I recently contacted the Chancery Office as well as Tim Welsh about this, and they realize this is going on. They basically said these people are very intelligent and ingenious at getting personal information and so create a false scenario to pry at people’s generosity and conscience. They are obviously working for the dark side and even with all the firewalls and internet protections in place, they find a way. Evil always tries to find a way when good is done. Like the Corona Virus we can only do so much, and so we just need to pay attention to those ‘red flags’ in us, be aware, and use our common sense when giving out personal information. These people need our prayers!