Ascension of the Lord
by Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua
Today, in our minds and hearts, let us place ourselves on the
Mount of Olives with Mary, the Mother of God,
with the Eleven Apostles, the holy women and the crowd of disciples. The Risen Christ is in their midst.
The past forty (40) days have been filled with many emotions. They saw Jesus
crucified. They saw their beloved Master die a
horrible death. They watched from a distance as His body was placed in a
tomb. Their hearts were crushed and they felt all
their hopes and dreams slip away.
On the third day, Easter Sunday, at various times during the day,
they suddenly saw Him alive. Scripture tells us of His appearance to Mary
Magdalene and the holy women. We also are informed of His appearance to the two
disciples on the Road to Emmaus. The Gospels also relate how Jesus appeared to
all the Apostles at various times over forty (40) days. Each of these accounts explains the
overwhelming joy which the disciples felt at seeing Jesus. And now, we are
invited to join them as Jesus appears a final time and is taken up in
glory to take His place at the right hand of the Father
. We can imagine their awe, their joy and
wonderment as Christ ascends into Heaven. What an
exhilarating happiness they had to feel watching Christ go up to Heaven!
We almost can feel their emotional "high".
Now, think for a moment what they felt when they realized that Jesus had left them. They would
see Him no longer. Not until they would join Him in Heaven
. Suddenly, they had to feel a certain sadness, maybe even a little lonely.
How heavy their hearts must have been! But, before He
ascended, Jesus assured them that He would be with them and
He gave them an enormous task to do: "Go into the whole world and proclaim
the Gospel!" The apostles were not to go home defeated. Their mission was only beginning.
They were to be filled with the Holy Spirit, on fire with Christ's love, and
they were to tell the world about Jesus. And they were to remember that Jesus
would be with them always.
Scripture, Tradition and History tell us of what the Apostles, this
small band of simple, uneducated men, were able to accomplish. They entered the arena of pagan gods and
proclaimed One (1) True God in Three (3)
Divine Persons. They preached to an ancient world immersed in debauchery of
every sort and conquered it with a code of moral teachings that would change the way people lived. They
faced violent, bloodthirsty crowds and offered their lives,
willingly, because they loved Christ. Their courage changed
hearts. Their faith changed the world. They accomplished all this because
Jesus was with them.
Today, we also find ourselves in the Church of the Apparitions, this beautiful shrine erected to
honor Our Lady of Fatima. The Church's celebration of
Our Lord's Ascension is complemented by the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary,
which we celebrate on August 15th. Mary was the
first and closest disciple of Jesus. She gave
Him life. She watched Him grow.
She quietly followed Him. She courageously and steadfastly united
herself to the sufferings of Christ.
She rejoiced in the Resurrection of
her Son. And, when Mary's life on earth ended,
she was taken up to Heaven, body and
soul, to share forever in the glory of Her
In the glory of Heaven, Mary has been given a new role.
She is the Mother of the Church.
She is a compassionate Advocate who prays to
her Beloved Son for all her children on earth.
Mary reminds us that where she is, in eternal glory
with Jesus, we too should long to be. Mary also reminds us of the
love which Christ has for us and, as a loving
mother, Mary calls us to conversion.
Here, at Fatima, Mary appeared to three shepherd children. Young and innocent,
these three witnesses were entrusted with a mission from Our Blessed Mother to
announce the need to do penance and to pray for the
conversion of sinners. At first, very few believed that the children
saw the Mother of God. Soon, however, because of the
conviction and honesty of the children, many people would come to believe.
As a result, devotion to Our Lady of Fatima has spread throughout the
world. This shrine is one of the worlds most popular places of pilgrimage and, because of the message of the children, many people
daily pray the Rosary. Most importantly, however, the message of
Our Lady at Fatima was a reminder of the love and mercy
of Our Heavenly Father and a call to conversion: to turn away from
sin and believe in the Good News of Jesus Christ.
This was the first message of Jesus when He began
His Public Life. This was the first message of Peter and the Apostles on
Pentecost Sunday. This is the message which the Church has preached for
2000 years. Sometimes, however, it takes a gentle reminder from Our Holy Mother
for us to remember that we are children of God and that we must be converted and
renewed each day as we continue our daily pilgrimage to
Our celebration today of the Ascension of the Lord is to help us remain focused on
Christ and to long to be where He is. It is most appropriate that we have
the opportunity to celebrate this solemnity here in this shrine because Our Lady's
appearance at Fatima was to point all humanity to Christ in the
glory of Heaven. Today we also recall what the Apostles accomplished at
Our Lord's command. During our visit to Fatima, we recall what three little children
were able to accomplish at Our Lady's request.
Now, we must consider how we, with the zeal of the Apostles and the example of the children, can become messengers
of the Good News. In our own daily lives, we must remain focused on Christ in
Heaven. In our own lives, we must experience conversion so that we may point
the way to others so that they, too, will look above and be converted to Christ.
This is how we are participants in the work of the New Evangelization.
By rekindling within ourselves a greater desire to live and share our faith, by daily asking
Jesus to renew us, we will be to others "signs
of conversion" who show others the way. With Our Lady to guide us, to protect us and to
pray for us, we will help others to look above and long to live forever with Christ
in the glory of Heaven.
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