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The Ascension of the Lord Homily-Fr. Andrew Lee

I am so sorry again for the news that Sr. Loretta left us on Monday last week. It was a shocking to all of us. I went to see her on Saturday last week. She looked better like I told you last weekend. She said to me that the life of the hospital was dull and she wanted to go home quickly but she laughed, talked, made a joke, and enjoyed my visit. I didn’t know that would be the last time I saw her and talked to her. I would’ve said thank you to her. I would’ve expressed my gratitude and appreciation more deeply but it was too late. I was shocked by the news that Dn. Bill passed to me Monday morning. I told daily mass people the news at the monastery Monday morning. After the mass, people were in tears and came to me and expressed their sorry and condolences. I also brought the news to people here in the parish at the Monday morning mass. We all were in sadness and sorrow. We offered the mass for her soul even in the shock that her death brought to us. 

It was so abrupt. We didn’t have enough time to part. We were not ready to send her out. That is why we are still sad. We still remember her smile, laugh, voice, love for the parishioners and friends, devotion to God, and passion for the Gospel. We didn’t know how precious she was when she was with us like we take for granted air, the sun, the beautiful nature around us so much that we are not even aware of them. That is why we miss her so much. But we, as Catholics, in the season of Easter, believe that her death is not an end but another beginning of new life. This gives us hope that we will rise again even in death. To remember her well, we live our lives by continuing the mission that she was loved doing. She left us and is at peace with God. She is at her eternal home. I said she was hoping she’d get home on Monday. She is at her real home right now. She left us the mission that she was doing. It is like Jesus leaves His disciples and ascends into heaven and commits them to continue His mission.   

What do we see in her abrupt death? I see Jesus’ last moment with His followers before He ascends. Jesus passes His last words to His disciples in today’s Gospel. We read the details of the Lord’s ascension in the Acts of the Apostles, the first reading. Jesus’ bodily ascension is described in details only by Luke-Acts tradition. On the other hands, in today’s Gospel, Matthew, apparently is not aiming at accuracy in historical details; Matthew is more concerned with transmitting a message. These farewell scenes focus on the last words that Jesus leaves with His disciples.

So what is the message that Jesus gives His disciples as He takes physical leave of them? If we take a closer look at the last words of Jesus in the Gospels and in Acts, we can tell what the message is. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” Jesus gave His disciples a mission, a task to engage them until he returns in glory. The mission is to bear witness to the good news of Jesus to the ends of the earth, to go to all nations of the world, and to proclaim the good news to the whole creation.

There is an ancient legend about Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Jesus is met by the angel Gabriel who asks him, "Now that your work is finished, what plans have you made to ensure that the truth that you brought to earth will spread throughout the world?" Jesus answered, "I have called some fishermen and tax-collectors to walk along with me as I did my Father’s will." "Yes, I know about them," said Gabriel, "but what other plans have you made?" Jesus replied, "I taught Peter, James and John about the kingdom of God; I taught Thomas about faith; and all of them were with me as I healed and preached to the multitudes." Gabriel replied, "But you know how unreliable that lot was. Surely you must have other plans to make sure your work was not in vain." Jesus quietly replied to Gabriel, "I have no other plans. I am depending on them!! "

The mission was given to the disciples and all of us, their descendants. This mission was being achieved by Sr. Loretta and we are committed to continuing the same mission for the rest of our lives. The ascension of the Lord is deeply related to the essence of Christian vocation and the plan of redemption. Jesus’ ascension reminds us of our calling and mission that we are supposed to complete God’s plan of redemption. As long as we live this mission, we are in solidarity with Jesus Christ and our departed brothers and sisters, and Sr. Loretta. Jesus promises all of us that the Holy Spirt will come and help us carry out the mission. “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.”

Our most beloved one left physically. Jesus also left but actually He dwells within us by sending His Spirit. In the hope that we will meet all the departed brothers and sisters, we strive to achieve the mission. But this can’t be done by our powers or talents. The spreading of the good news to all nations is not a goal that can be attained by human might and craft. That is why Jesus promises to empower all of us by sending the Holy Spirit. This is challenging. But by the help of the Holy Spirit, with the solidarity of our brothers and sisters, we overcome our selfishness and greed, and keep mission going until the end of the world. Jesus Christ gave us hope of our glorification in the end. Sr. Loretta is in the glorification. Jesus guaranteed we would meet together in heaven. Let us humbly resolve in this mass to continue the mission that Sr. Loretta was doing: spreading the Gospel by our love and compassion for others. 

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