Sunday, June 05, 2011

Feast of the Ascension - homily

"I am with you always, until the end of the age".

Many people who come to me for counseling or spiritual direction ask for evidence or proof, and it's most often about this point the Lord makes here. They want to know that He is, in fact, with us. They want to know that He is real. Just yesterday, a very devout woman demanded evidence, not exactly that the Lord is with us, but not too far off. It's a great desire of all of us to know that the Lord is with us. So, I will give you two points of evidence - two "proofs" - that the Lord is with us always.

The first proof is the Church. Look at the history of the Church from the Ascension 2000 years ago until now. At the time of the Ascension, there were 11 Apostles and a few disciples. It was a small group of people. And, then, the leader of the group left! He ascended to glory at the right hand of the Father. How in the world did it go from a small group of followers to now over a billion Catholics? How did the Church not just survive, but actually thrive? The only reasonable explanation is that the Lord has been with us. He did not leave us orphans when He ascended. There's no way we could have gotten to this point on our own.

In fact, He has been with us as head of the Church. Ten days after the Ascension, He sent His Spirit upon the Apostles at Pentecost. This event officially started the Catholic Church. The Spirit has been guiding and leading the Church ever since. It is the Spirit of Christ. The Catechism says that Christ communicated the Spirit to the Church in such a way that our communion with Him is even more intense now. As our second reading says, Christ is the head, the Church is the body. The New Testament says this constantly: that Christ and the Church are one. He is with us always. He did not leave us orphans at the Ascension.

So, He is still present in His mystical body, the Church. He is still present in a mysterious, unseen way. He is one with all disciples of all nations….to the ends of the earth. Christ is the bridegroom, the Church is the bride. The Church is the fullness of Christ on earth. That word “fullness” is key to understanding the Catholic Church. While the Lord is present in Protestant denominations, the fullness of Christ is found in the Catholic Church. In the Church is the fullness of Christ, the fullness of the Spirit, the fullness of Truth.

The second proof is the Eucharist. Many of us who have a relationship with the Eucharist will think that the Lord is mainly talking about the Eucharist in this line at the end of Matthew’s Gospel: "I am with you always, until the end of the age”. He remains visibly present to us in the Eucharist as He was visibly present for forty days before the Ascension. It is in the Eucharist that many of us have seen our “proof” or evidence that He is with us. This can happen at Sunday Mass, but for many of us, it has happened at daily Mass or in Eucharistic Adoration.

If you are looking for evidence that the Lord is with you, try going to a daily Mass. It is much more intimate than Sunday Mass, there are less distractions, and, well, it’s shorter (with no collections!). And, if you spend even a little time in Adoration each week, you will have an experience that so many of us have had: that there IS a presence there. It’s not just bread. There is something supernatural going on there, just like there’s been something supernatural going on in the 2000 year history of the Church. It’s hard to put into words, but the best way for me to describe the experience in the Real Presence is peace. You have an experience of peace…you have an experience of something being there. You have an experience that the Lord is with you always, until the end of the age.

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