Saturday, May 16, 2015

Ascension Thursday Sunday (OF)

Ascendit Deus in jubilatione, alleluia!
Et Dominus in voce tubae, alleluia!
“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”  We heard this over 40 days ago on Good Friday, when Christ hanging from the Cross called out to His Father in crushing despair.  But perhaps we all feel this in our own hearts when we hear that Christ has ascended into heaven.  If God so loved us, and if Christ is the means of that love, then why would he seemingly abandon His own to go to Heaven now?  Why can’t He stay and prove to all the truth of the Catholic faith?
Christ ascends into Heaven because “He also descended into the lower regions of the earth” as Saint Paul tells us in the Letter to the Ephesians.  In the depths of His suffering, Christ died and entered into the underworld, the lowest point in the spiritual spheres at which man resides, the farthest point one could be spiritually from God.  He enters into the underworld so as to liberate those souls who have not been able to enter into heaven but have passed from this world.  Christ proclaims to them the message of salvation and eternal life which is won for us and for them in His paschal mystery, and so leads them out to the heights which are now theirs and are also ours.  Since He has conquered the depths and valleys, Christ now ascends on high to His throne overseeing all in His watchful care.
Saint Paul continues, “The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things” and this presents to us our second reason for the Ascension.  Christ ascends so that we might be filled.  But with what are we to be filled?  We are to be filled with the virtues, the habits that lead us towards sanctity.  We are to be faithful, believing in all that Christ did and proclaimed and which has been handed on to us by the Church, holding fast to our faith in those things which are unseen but still hold true.  We are to hope for the grace and mercy of God which aids us in fulfilling God’s will for us, our sanctification.  And we increase in love of God who dwells in Heaven, not on earth.  All of this could not be accomplished if Christ remained here on earth.  We would have no faith, no hope, no real love in God.
Finally, Christ ascends into Heaven so as to remind us that the full maturity of this world has not arrived yet.  What do I mean by that?  When Christ was resurrected, He did not return to life only to die once more, as happened to those whom He raised from the dead.  Christ rose unto the immortal glory which all the saints now and in the future will achieve at the end of time.  He shows us how we shall be when the fullness of time has been reached and the world as we know it comes to an end.  After that terrible day, there will emerge a new heavens and a new earth, as we see in the book of Revelation.  On that day, there shall be no death, no sorrow, no loss, no corruption, nothing that results from sin.  All that shall be left is perfection, joy, beatitude, bliss.
But until that time, we must wait, and He cannot remain.  Yet His ascension contains a promise.  The angels tell us that “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.”  That dreadful but long expected day will come, and Christ will return in His full glory to bestow upon those who are worthy the reward of sharing in that maturity, in the full stature of Christ resurrected unto eternal life.  For now, we must wait, we must pray and we must carry on, doing what He tells us to do in our Gospel today, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”

Let us rejoice that Christ goes forth to intercede for us with the Heavenly Father, mounting His throne to our shouts of joy.  Let us not feel abandoned by Christ, but mindful that He goes to prepare a place for us when our own lives on this earth are complete.  But let us work to earn that place in our own way, fulfilling His will for us by abandoning sin and proclaiming the Gospel of joy to every creature by our words and our lives.  Let us finally beseech God for the fresh gift of the Holy Spirit, the promised Advocate whose descent we will celebrate next week: that we may be stirred anew by that same Spirit to desire to ascend in mind if not in body towards the heavenly realities, living our lives oriented towards the splendid glory of eternal life.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Fourth Sunday after Easter/May Crowning (EF)

As has been appropriate for Mays immemorial, we have crowned Our Lady on this first Sunday of May so as to open this month in which we hold her most dear to us.  Bl John Henry Newman, in his devotions for the month of May, relates how Our Lady is most fittingly honored during this month.  Newman writes: “May, therefore, is the time in which there are such frequent Alleluias, because Christ has risen from the grave, Christ has ascended on high, and God the Holy Ghost has come down to take His place. Here then we have a reason why May is dedicated to the Blessed Mary. She is the first of creatures, the most acceptable child of God, the dearest and nearest to Him. It is fitting then that this month should be hers, in which we especially glory and rejoice in His great Providence to us, in our redemption and sanctification in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.”  Indeed, we should glory and rejoice in her through whom salvation has come and in whom the Church remains sanctified and united to her divine Bridegroom.
Our Lady deserves our praise not only because of every good gift, every perfect gift she has received, but because of their source and their purpose.  Their source is the Father of lights, who is the best of all givers.  For indeed, God gives more than grace unto each Christian; He gives that which is most dear to Him: His own Son.  And this relates the source of her gifts to their purpose.  Their purpose is for the salvation of souls; in fact, the salvation of the whole world.  God made her so perfect and pure so that she would be worthy to carry the insitum verbum, the Word grafted unto her flesh, and through her, grafted unto the flesh of all humanity.
Let us rejoice, indeed, that God has chosen His lowly handmaid to be the Mother of His Son.  Let us give her the praise that is due to her, singing the new song foretold by the psalmist in our introit, the song praising the marvels the Lord has done through her and with her.  Let us echo the praises of the Church throughout the centuries in honoring who is most blessed among all women.  Yet our praises cannot be enough for her who is such a good and perfect gift to us.
Just as promises are worthless if they are not reinforced by action, so too our praises are worthless if they do not lead us towards the goal of all the gifts we praise in her and from her.  Our Lady certainly receives our praise and gratitude with joy, but she desires to give more than that to her Son, to her King.  She desires to pass on and present more perfectly our entire being as a good gift to return to Him who has given everything for us.  In union with the Paraclete, the divine Spouse who brought her the gift of her Son, she desires to love us completely and to aid us in the ultimate goal which God has in mind for each of us: our sanctification.
The Virgin Queen loves us most when we love her in every part of our lives.  Let us do our part to make each moment of our existence ordered towards a greater love of our Queen, and, with her and through her, our eternal King.  Let us order our lives as Saint James instructs us: casting away all uncleanness and abundance of malice, being swift to hear the Word implanted in us by her and being slow to speak and slow to anger.  Above all, we must act in charity towards God, towards Our Lady, and towards our neighbor.
Let us imitate the example of the Blessed Virgin in our lives, orienting ourselves towards the Word implanted in us by the Holy Spirit, whose descent Our Lord foretells in our Gospel.  Let us hear the truth about which we should be more convinced every day: the sinfulness of disbelief even within the Church and within our hearts when we fail to live up to His commands; the justice of Christ reigning from His heavenly throne, to which He will ascend so very soon; and the judgment of God which is already cast upon this generation.  Let us not be afraid to beseech God through Our Lady for every good gift, every perfect gift necessary for us to grow in sanctity through the Word implanted within us at baptism and upon whom we are regrafted each time we worthily receive the Holy Eucharist.  Let us strive to praise Our Lady not only in our hymns and in our prayers, but also in our words and our actions, so that we may merit at the end of our days to enter into the unchangeable and unalterable joy of the Father of lights.