Thursday, 14 May 2015

Feast of the Ascension Homily by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.

Feast of the Ascension
Reading from the Gospel according to St. John

…according to John.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Within a short time, you will lose sight of me, but soon after that you shall see me again.” At this time all of the disciples asked one another, “What can he mean, within a short time you will lose sight of me, but soon after that you will see me and he did not say that he is going back to the Father?” They kept asking, “What did he mean by this short time?” “We do not know what he is talking about.”

Since Jesus was aware that he wanted the question to be asked. “You’re asking one another about my saying within a short time you will lose sight of me but soon after you will see me. I tell you truly you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices, you will grieve for a time, but your grief will be turned into joy.”

The Gospel of the Lord.


On the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord, which is the closing of our Lord’s stay visibly on earth, this is both a commemoration and a promise and a condition. It is first of all, a commemoration. Christ really rose from the dead. Christ really ascended into heaven. Forty days after his resurrection, our Lord disappeared visibly from this earth and physically, geographically, historically went to heaven. Christ’s Ascension is a historical fact.

The Ascension of our Lord is also a promise. It is a promise because no less than Jesus, we were conceived, born, we shall die, we shall rise from the dead and, please God, we too will be assumed into heaven. What is the promise? The promise is that provided we have followed Jesus Christ during our mortal stay here on earth, we will rise from the dead. Let’s be clear. Our bodies will rise from the dead. We never die, comma, we never die, one more comma, we never die. Our souls live on, but we too will have our rising from the dead and our being assumed by Christ ascending into heaven.

The ascension has to do with the body. I repeat. The ascension has to do with the body. Christ, therefore, having lived visibly on earth, having risen from the dead, ascended visibly into heaven, and we too will one day, please God, in our bodies go to heaven.

But finally, today’s feast is also a condition, we shall rise from the dead, but our bodies will conditionally go to heaven to join the ascended body of Jesus Christ, on one condition that like Him we have to pay the price. We have to pay the price of our ascending in body to our heavenly destiny. What’s the price? The price is pain with our body. Suffering is a condition for our bodily resurrection, that’s coming out, and our bodily ascension, that is, going up.

All the sufferings of the body, all the trials of our body, all the resisting of the temptations of the body, all the control of our bodily passions, all the sacrifice of our bodies, all the acts of charity that we’ve got to practice with our bodies. All of this, we believe, is to be rewarded. Today is then both the promise of our reaching heaven with our bodies, but it is also a sobering condition.

We are living in the laziest society of human history. Americans work the least. Americans eat the most. Americans sleep the longest. Americans exert themselves the least with their bodies. American bodies live longest of any major nation in the world. Oh, how we cater to this body.

I repeat. We too are to have our Ascension Thursday, but there is a condition that we use our bodies by sacrificing them, that we use our bodies to suffer with them, that we use our bodies in joining with Jesus Christ in undergoing His Passion, His Death, so that like Him having risen from the dead, we too, will one day ascend into heaven. Amen.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.