From the Desk of Fr. Andrew
May is an incredibly busy time in our parish and in our school. It seems like we are cramming two months’ worth of events into one as we make the mad dash toward June and the summer break. We have celebrated six First Communions and a Confirmation. We are fitting in our last flurry of weddings before our summer roof project. There are graduations to celebrate and a school year to wrap up. Easily lost in all that busyness is the end of the Easter season and the celebration of two of our holiest Sundays in the liturgical year.
40 days after Easter Sunday, Jesus ascended to Heaven. 50 days after Easter, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and the Blessed Mother at Pentecost. Yes, 40 days after Easter falls on Thursday, which is the traditional date of the Ascension. In the majority of dioceses in the United States, we have celebrated the Ascension on the 7th Sunday after Easter since 1991.
The Ascension is often passed over in terms of importance in the Catholic mind, yet it is one of our fundamental mysteries of faith. It is not about Jesus going away and leaving the Church in His stead. Today we celebrate that Jesus went to His Father’s house to prepare a dwelling place for each of us. It is about our eternal destiny, that which awaits us after living faithfully in relationship with the Lord. We don’t die someday and then head to an eternity that is foreign to us, like a Martian landscape. The choices we make in this life resonate into eternity. If we live in relationship with Jesus, speaking to Him every day, seeking to obey Him always, and asking pardon for our sins, then, that relationship will continue into eternity. We will enter the dwelling place He prepared for us in the presence of His Heavenly Father. Now, if we live life as if God doesn’t exist, that too will continue into eternity.
The Ascension means that our ultimate home is not here on Earth. We were made for Heaven. We were exiled by sin, but that exile is not forever. We have hope that we can be with Jesus forever because of what He promised us. He promised an Advocate, the Spirit who looks out for us.
Pentecost is the third holiest day of the Catholic calendar. A little known fact is that the Vigil Mass for Pentecost can be celebrated with similar solemnity to the Easter Vigil. That is, with 4 Old Testament readings, an epistle, and a Gospel. What a surprise for the 5pm Saturday crowd that would be if we pulled that out next week! The point is that Pentecost is a solemnity of paramount importance.
Pentecost is the birth of our Church, the moment when the Spirit poured out from Heaven upon the disciples of Jesus and equipped them to evangelize. Without the Holy Spirit, we are nothing. Without the Spirit, we sinful humans would have destroyed this Christian exercise over a millennium ago. The Holy Spirit breathes life into our Christian lives. It transforms the soul at Baptism, Confirmation, and Ordination. The Spirit transforms bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Our Lord. The Spirit heals us bodily and spiritually. It seals the love of a man and woman into the sacred covenant of matrimony. The Holy Spirit guides history according to divine providence and fulfills the will of the Heavenly Father in every way. Brothers and sisters, there is no life of grace in us, there is no eternal reward for us without the powerful movement of the Holy Spirt.
Ascension and Pentecost round out the Easter season. They take us beyond our earthly lives to our eternal destiny. In them, we celebrate everything Jesus has done for us and continues to do for us. Do not take the next two Sundays for granted. Make them times of prayer as we thank the Lord for His great mercy in our lives. His plan is far more marvelous than we can imagine. Happy Ascension and Happy Pentecost!