Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. May 8, 2016.
Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; Lk 24:46-53
Awaiting the return of the Judge
St. Luke’s account of the Ascension of the Lord Jesus shows us how the disciples’ awe-filled contemplation of the ascending Christ is interrupted by the words of the two men dressed in white, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen Him going into heaven.”
Christ Jesus will return. The Apostles’ Creed reminds us of the purpose of His return, “I believe in Jesus Christ… He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there He will come to judge the living and the dead.” Our faith in Jesus Christ is not complete until our lives show that we really believe in His return in glory to judge every single one of us.
It is very providential that the mercy of God has been emphasized greatly in recent years. We can always grow in that much needed trust in divine mercy. However, in our times when the common mantra seems to be “Who am I to judge?” it is has become more difficult for us to live with conviction the truth that we are going to be judged by a good and loving Savior who loved us to the point of shedding His blood for us on the cross. How could our loving and merciful Savior also be our just judge?
Maybe we need to be reminded that the mercy of God is only an attribute of God, though it is the divine attribute par excellence. But mercy does not exhaust the mystery of God per se. The mystery of God per se is beyond mercy because God is also infinitely true, just, holy, power, beauty, etc. Hence, the love of God and His justice are not mutually opposed.
But more importantly, Christ will return to judge us because He has given to us His Holy Spirit. By His Holy Spirit, we can confidently follow in Christ’s footsteps in this world, doing and enduring all that He too endured in His journey from this world to the Father. By the Spirit that He possessed in its fullness from the moment of His conception in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ gave faithful witness to the Father’s love in this world and journeyed back to the Father. Jesus Christ gave witness to the world that this love of the Father in Him would triumph over sin, suffering, hatred, death, the grave and all the powers of hell, “I cam from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.”(Jn 16:28)
The First Reading reminds us that it is through the Holy Spirit that Jesus Christ instructs and empowers His disciples. He was taken up “after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom He had chosen.” After telling them to wait in Jerusalem for the Holy Spirit, “the promise of the Father,” He promised to empower them for worldwide witness through the Holy Spirit, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Through this same Spirit, Jesus Christ, in His mercy and love, continues to instruct and empower us today to do what He did with the same motive of love for the Father – give faithful witness and to persevere in our journey to the Father. By possessing His Spirit, we can respond to the Father’s love that constantly draws us to Himself in Jesus Christ along the same path of faithful witness to the love of the Father in us. We shall indeed be judged by how we are docile to the instructions of the Holy Spirit and how we open our hearts to His power in us.
The risen Christ once said to the Apostle of Divine Mercy, St. Faustina, “Speak to the world about my mercy; let all mankind recognize my unfathomable mercy. It is a sign for the end times; after it will come the day of Justice….Before I come as the Just Judge, I am coming first as the King of mercy.” (Diary, 848, 83) Before His final coming as Judge, Jesus, in His mercy, comes to us constantly with new offerings of His Spirit so that we can imitate His fidelity to the Father and journey where He has gone before us as our exalted Head.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, are we preparing for our own judgement day when we have to give account of how we have been open and attentive to the voice of the Spirit in us? Are we learning from the Spirit how we can be more faithful witnesses to power of God’s love in us to conquer sin in us and in the world? Are we letting the Spirit teach and move us to love, serve, and glorify the Father in all things like Jesus Christ did? Are we so focused on what people will think or say about us or how we feel about things that we ignore what God sees? Are we living with the consciousness that every single day of our lives brings us ever closer to the day of our own judgement?
Our response is not to live in fear of the judgement to come. St. Paul reminds the Christians in Ephesus that their faithful witness to God’s Spirit will bring them “greater knowledge of God,” a greater sense of “the hope that belongs to the call of God,” “the riches of the glory in His inheritance,” and “the surpassing greatness of His power.” All this will come from our readiness and willingness to be instructed and empowered by the Spirit of God.
No human person allowed the Holy Spirit to instruct and empower her like Mother Mary. As the faithful spouse of the Holy Spirit, she was constantly instructed on her part in salvation history from the moment of the Annunciation. She opened her self completely to the work of the Spirit and yielded the greatest thing ever – the God-Man, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Judge. She walked in the footsteps of Christ at every moment till those painful moments of the Passion of her Son and she too shared in His exaltation by her glorious Assumption into heaven body and soul. Through a deep devotion to Mary we too can learn from her how to be open to the instructions and power of the Spirit in our lives. With maternal love, she will surely prepare us for our own judgements by living today and always in a Christ-like manner.
Jesus says in today’s Gospel passage that the entire Paschal mystery was not for His own sake but in fidelity to the Father’s plan and for our sake. “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in His name to all the nations.” Now is the time of mercy for us, a time to receive and communicate His own forgiveness to others too, to repent of our old ways and walk in His own path by the power of the Holy Spirit that constantly instructs and empowers us for faithful witness, “You are witnesses of these things. Stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
We have an encounter with this same Spirit of truth and power in this Eucharist today. Remember, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” Possessing this Spirit, it is not enough for us to just stand and stare up into heaven, longing for the return of the Savior. True hope grounded in solid faith in Christ spurs us on to a Christ-like life, making us strive to do what Jesus has done – confidently bear witness to the Father in this world and persevere on our journey back to God. This is why Jesus gave us of His Spirit and why He will return at the end of time to judge every single one of us.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!