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Homilies for Ascension (C)

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Ascension of the Lord (C)

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St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The Church “is not just an assembly of believers gathered around the Pope,” writes Father Hawkswell. “She is a body whose head is Christ and whose soul is the Holy Spirit.” (Fr. Lawrence Lew, OP/Flickr – cropped)
Bloom Chama Chua Cummins Fleming Hawkswell Holsington
Kavanaugh Lane Langeh Lawrence McKinnon Pavone Pellegrino
Powell Schuster Senior Smiga Terra Turner Wester

Featured Homilies


The Ascension: Now We Have Access to Heaven



The Ascension is not a “dis-incarnation,” as if God became man, saved us, and then returned to being God again. Christ, fully God and fully man, ascended to heaven not only as God, but also as man, as the apostles saw him go.

Consequently, there is now, at the very heart of the Holy Trinity, a man like us. As the poet Dante said in his Paradiso, he saw in the depths of God “one Who looked exactly like me. And then I knew the love that moves the sun and all the stars.”

Quite simply, we can say that since the Ascension, humanity is something we have in common with God.


It’s Complicated



The Easter season is slowly coming to a close. In many places in the world this coming Sunday will be the celebration of the Ascension. In other places, including my own diocese, it will be observed as the 7th Sunday of Easter, Ascension having been celebrated this Thursday, May 13.

You’ll find the readings for both observances and commentary on the 7th Sunday of Easter here. Some background on the Ascension readings can be found here. The Sadlier site provides hints for helping children prepare to hear the Ascension readings here and the readings for the 7th Sunday of Easter here.


Ascension Optimism


Now not all optimism is Christian. Not all optimism is even healthy. There is a kind of optimism that is blind, that refuses to admit that there is evil in the world. Such an optimism is out of touch with reality, and it is not Christian. Christian optimism recognizes that there are many things wrong with our world, but it refuses to let that which is wrong negate that which is good.  Christian optimism holds onto the hope that our lives and our world are in fact modeled after Christ’s, that we are indeed moving towards glory.

Is it easy to live this kind of optimism? Not at all. It is difficult when there are problems in our family; when we worry about our children or our parents; when there is misunderstanding and hurt. It is difficult for a Christian to believe that when we love and forgive, things will work out for the best. It is difficult when we experience sickness and loss to continue to trust that we can find the courage to continue and once again be happy. It is difficult when we live in a world where so many lives are controlled by violence and war and hatred and injustice to believe that women and men of goodwill can make a difference, that working together we can find a road to peace.


The Ascension of the Lord

| 2019
Dominican Friars of England & Wales, Scotland

With our modern understanding of the world, the Ascension can be rather hard for us to comprehend. After all, surely if you go up and up into the sky, you don’t go up into heaven at all, but you just end up going into outer space. So what was it that the apostles witnessed at the Ascension and what does the Ascension actually teach us? Well, there’s another story about Jesus which has a number of parallels with the Ascension and that can shed some light on this question. This is the story of Jesus’ Transfiguration.

Both the Transfiguration and the Ascension took place on a mountain, and this is significant, because mountains are the kind of place that God likes to reveal Himself. In the Old Testament, both Moses and Elijah had personal encounters with God whilst up a mountain.  Furthermore, in both the Transfiguration and the Ascension, something very dramatic happened to Jesus –  in the Transfiguration, His appearance changed and His clothes became dazzling white, and in the Ascension, He ascended into heaven. Thus, both events reveal something of the glory of Christ which is normally hidden from people’s eyes.


Standing Around Doing Nothing

Proclaim Sermons | 2022

“The problem with doing nothing is not knowing when you’re finished.” So said Benjamin Franklin. “I need so much time for doing nothing that I have no time for work,” said French poet Pierre Reverdy. “The difficulty of always feeling that you ought to be doing something is that you tend to undervalue the time when you’re apparently doing nothing, and those are very important times,” said British musician Brian Eno. And Malcolm Forbes said, “The hardest work of all — doing nothing.”1

Some people have “doing nothing” down to an art. Anywhere you go, you will see people “doing nothing.” Of course, today almost everyone has a “doing nothing” gadget: the cell phone. People walk off curbs while “doing nothing” on their phones. Drivers are distracted by their phones even though, when asked, they will say they were “doing nothing” but driving. One man in California almost bumped into a bear while staring at his phone while walking.

Our scripture today includes the question, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand around looking up toward heaven?” which could probably be asked another way, “Why do you stand around doing nothing?” It’s probably unfair to compare “then” to “now” for life was far different “then.” Indeed, the people surrounding Jesus at his ascension into heaven did not know what to do. They had experienced the miraculous and they were stunned into doing nothing, at least for a little while.


Disappear vs. Leave

HomiliesST. MARY OF THE VALLEY | 2010

Bottom line: Although Jesus has disappeared from our sight, he did not leave us. And he tells us, “You will be my witnesses.”

Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord. Our first reading gives a clue to the meaning of this mystery. You will notice that St. Luke does not speak about Jesus “going away,” but that “a cloud took him from their sight.” There is a difference between “leaving” and “disappearing.” When someone leaves, it suggests separation, even finality. When a person disappears from sight, he might still be very close – in another room. Or even closer. Have you never had the experience of thinking that someone has disappeared, but then realized he is standing right next to you? The fact that the disciples no longer see Jesus does not mean that he has gone from them.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, we are in a better position to understand how someone can disappear from sight – and still be very close. We have movies like “The Matrix” that involve a separate dimensions of reality – one unseen by the other. And scientists are now speaking about the possibility of parallel universes or “multiverses.” All this should not sound strange to us. As Christians we have always known that a parallel realm exists, that it has an effect on our everyday reality and that we can interact with it.

RELATED HOMILIES | 2022 Homilies


Worship and Mission



For St Luke, the Ascension was a significant moment in the disciples’ personal transformation and in the advance of the gospel through the Church. The Ascension also marks a critical turning point, the passing of the Lord’s message and mission to His disciples. Luke emphasised the importance of this event by ending his Gospel with this event and beginning his second volume, Acts, with it. It is significant that St Luke tells the story of the ascension twice. Each narration brings out a different aspect of the truth but the theme of witnessing seems to bind both Lucan accounts. In the Acts account, just before He ascends, the Lord promises His Apostles, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.” Similarly in the gospel, having reiterated the kerygma, the kernel of the Christian faith, that “Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,” the Lord gives them this commission: “In His name repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.” In other words, when Christ ascended, He left with the intention that the Church takes up where He left off.

The Acts version of the event also paints a rather comical scene. The disciples are standing there, first looking at the Lord ascending and then continue staring at the clouds. They are then shaken out of their stupor by the question posed by two men in white, presumably angels: “Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky?” The question could actually be paraphrased, “Do you not have something better to do than to stand here and gawk?”


Witness to Dignity



This year for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord into heaven, one phrase keeps playing in my mind. That phrase is “He is exalted.” Jesus is exalted and raised into heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father where He judges the living and the dead. What really does this mean, and what effect does this have on us? First of all, as the eternal Son of the Father, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Word of God is for all time united to the Godhead that is the mystery of the Trinity, but that is considering the divine nature of the Second Person. When the Word became Flesh, the Second Person took on a human nature. He is now not just God, but also man. It is Jesus in his human nature that is raised to sit at the right hand of the Father, that is exalted.


Jesus Prays for You


7th Sunday of Easter — Jesus is aware that his disciples will encounter trials in their mission, after his departure. These trials will come not only from outside, but also from within. This is why in his long goodbye speech Jesus takes the trouble to give some instructions which help the disciples to remain focused on their mission. What message does the 7th Sunday of Easter have for us?

Already in chapter 13 of the Gospel of John, by the washing of the feet during the Last Supper, Jesus shows that a disciple is called to live the commandment of love through service. So, whoever wants to be the first should be the servant of all, following the example of the master himself. And that’s why, by analogy, the disciples are called to be configured onto their master, like branches onto the vine, if they are to be fruitful in their mission. And today’s Gospel, John chapter 17, marks the end of this discourse. What is Jesus doing?


Enlightened to Our Calling and Destiny

HomiliesYEAR C HOMILIES | 2013

We are so busy doing things, achieving, and making progress that we can forget what life is all about: preparing to meet God in heaven. Jesus’ Ascension reminds us that we are “only passing through” on this earth, as we say; we are pilgrims on a journey. Just as Jesus’ earthly life was temporary, and he ascended to sit at the right hand of the Father, so also our lives here are temporary, will come to an end, and we will meet God in the next life. Jesus’ Ascension reminds us in all of our busyness not to forget what life is all about. Remember that conversation with a student. What will you do next? The student had an answer for everything but never thought about dying and what would happen then.


God in the “In Betweens”


It has been said that as Christians we are always, “aliens in a foreign land.”  We might look the same as others, we might talk the same, we might act the same but as Christians we are never fully at home in this world.  Our souls will always be, in this life, to some extent or another, “restless”.  At some level we know that our true home still awaits us.  As Christians we do not disdain the world nor do we see it as evil.  The opposite, in fact, is the case – we value the world, we marvel at its beauty but we view it within the fuller horizon of the love, truth and hope that we have come to know in Jesus Christ.  What we have come to know in Christ affects everything – even how we judge our place in the world.


Stephen Martyr

HomiliesSUNDAY WEB SITE | 1997

7th Sunday of Easter – The figure of St. Stephen, the first martyr, emerges in the Easter season just as it does in the days after Christmas. I wonder if there is some kind of ironic warning here. Do we realize what we’re getting ourselves into when we so readily celebrate Christ’s birth into our world and then his Paschal mystery?

Stephen was a deacon, a person “filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” Utterly open to and reliant upon the victory of Christ, his was a radical discipleship. His murder, which Acts recounts, was the result of a withering challenge he made to those who resisted the message of Christ. In effect, he took on the leaders of his time. It was enough to get anybody killed anywhere.


What Does it Matter?



What does it matter for us today that Jesus ascended into heaven?  While we hear it in both the first reading and gospel today, we also confess it every Sunday and Solemnity in the Creed: “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”  This is not merely an arbitrary dogma which must be held by all who call themselves Christian, it also most relevant to our own personal spirituality.  Probably the most notable aspect of this event for our spiritual lives is that human nature is united with the Godhead forever.

This is important for us because, as the Letter to the Hebrews argues, the God-man Jesus ascended into “heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf.”  That is, the incarnate Son, God himself, is interceding for us to the Father for our sanctification and final salvation.  He does not intercede for us merely in his divinity, but also in his humanity.  Thus, in a time when the humanity of so many is demeaned or even denied, the ascended Christ shines out like a light in the darkness, reminding us of the greatness to which we are called as human beings, namely that it is possible for God and man to be totally united and that the power to make this a reality can come only through Jesus Christ.  This is one of the surest foundations for our hope, since it proves God cares deeply about us and is interested in every detail in our lives.  Despair is not an option for one who firmly holds this article of faith.


Jesus Withdraws



Today’s Gospel concluded Luke’s story of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus with a brief account of what he called Jesus’ “withdrawing from the disciples and being carried up to heaven”. Appropriately, he closely connected it with Jesus’ resurrection and, you will have noticed, even timed it as occurring on the same day – the resurrection in the morning and the withdrawal to heaven in the evening.

The First Reading tonight was taken from a second volume of Luke’s, the Acts of the Apostles. This volume dealt no longer with the life and teaching of Jesus, but with the beginning of the Church and its early history. You know from your familiarity with the Gospel that Luke prefaced Jesus’ public ministry with a forty-day novitiate in the desert at the end of which he was tempted. In this second volume, Luke prefaced the launching of the Church also with a forty-day novitiate, “For forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the Kingdom of God”. It was only then that he recounted Jesus’ Ascension, connecting it somehow with the coming Kingdom. He described it as he had in his Gospel, with a few significant additions. “He was lifted up… and a cloud took him from their sight”.


A Powerful Feast



The Ascension is a powerful feast on which to preach the sanctity of human life, because at its core, this feast is about our human nature being exalted to the heights of heaven. Jesus prayed on the night before he died, “Father, give me the glory I had with you before the world began.” How is the glory he has in the Ascension different from the glory he had “before the world began?”

It differs only in that now, he has it in a human nature. Our humanity has been taken to the heights of heaven, fulfilling the destiny God intended for human life from the beginning. Revelation 3:21 declares, “To the one who gains the victory, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne.” God’s plan for us is not just that we will gather around the throne or fall down before the throne, but that we will sit with him on the throne!



Don’t Just Stand There Looking at the Sky!


Right before their eyes “as they were looking on, [Jesus] was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” Place yourself in this scene. You’re just standing there with your friends, listening to your teacher lecture. He’s repeating some of the same stuff he’s said a thousand times before. You have absolutely no idea what he’s talking about. One of your more impatient classmates asks Jesus if and when he plans on restoring the kingdom of Israel. Ah! Finally, a real question! Time to get this revolution started! Then Jesus starts taking about times and seasons and the Holy Spirit and Jerusalem and being his witnesses all over the world. And just as your eyes are about to glaze over. . .WHOOSH!. . .he flies up into the sky in a cloud, disappearing from sight. Like everyone else who sees this, you’re standing with your mouth open, wondering what just happened. Then two guys dressed in white show up and ask, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” Why are we standing here looking at the sky!? Um, b/c our teacher just got kidnapped by a cloud? Here’s another question just for us: why do the guys in white ask the stunned disciples why they are looking up at the sky?

Thursday or Sunday?


Every year, pastors in a number of dioceses get asked the same question: “Father, is Ascension celebrated on Thursday or next Sunday?” The reason why we are asked this question is because, traditionally, the Ascension is celebrated on a Thursday. Why Thursday? This is because Luke tells us in the Acts the Apostles that the Ascension happened forty days after the resurrection. Forty days after Easter lands this celebration on a Thursday. A number of dioceses, however, celebrate the Ascension on the 7th Sunday of Easter given how many people work on Thursdays. Celebrating the Ascension on a Sunday allows more parishioners the opportunity to reflect on the importance of the Ascension in our faith tradition. So, there you have it. Aren’t you glad you came to Church this weekend to learn about that? However, I am going to let you in on a little secret regarding the timing of the Ascension and it is right here on full display in our readings for the Ascension. You see, the readings today actually give us two different accounts of the Ascension from the very same author. And, St. Luke seems to contradict himself. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostle, Luke dates the Ascension forty days after the Resurrection. In the Gospel reading, however, Luke dates the Ascension on Easter day itself. This seems very confusing. Luke is the same author of both the Gospel and Acts. What are we to make of this?


Sharing the Mission of Jesus



What would the world be like if there were no God? What would our lives be like if God did not exist? Would there even be a world – the universe itself? Would we exist at all? Yet, today, there is a growing number of people who deny God’s existence. The atheists believe that there is no God – as well as no life after death. The agnostics say that we simply can’t know if God exists. And then, what about our own lives? Would we be gathered here today if we did not believe? Would we be the person each of us is, if we did not believe that God exists – and expects something from us? How atheists continue to go on living, day after day, is beyond my comprehension. What do they do when life becomes painful and hard – and filled with suffering on so many levels? How do they live with their mistakes? How do they fill that empty place within themselves?


Living in the Moment as Jesus’ Disciples and Trusting in His Power

HomiliesST. LOUIS REVIEW | 2022

Have you ever wished that you knew more about the ways of God? Did you ever wish that God would give you a heads up about the future? These kinds of questions were on the minds of the early apostles and disciples when they were given instructions through the Holy Spirit. They wanted to know if this was the moment when the kingdom of God would come to fulfillment. They wanted to know if now is the time when the promises of God would be fulfilled. I’m sure their unspoken wish was that now would be the time for an end to suffering and a beginning of new life and goodness. Jesus has one answer for them: a reminder that that is not for them to know.

Behind that response lies the most important teaching of Jesus. He wants us to live in this present moment as His disciples and to do all that we can to make our lives and the lives of others fruitful, peaceful and abundant. From the early example of the apostles and disciples, we know that this will come about through sharing our gifts with others. We know from those accounts that it will involve including people that we normally don’t include, especially if their practices or language make us uncomfortable or afraid. We know that Jesus lived according to His teachings and made each moment count for good. But how are we to do that? How are we to live with such a focus on the present moment and not be lured into the past or the future?



by Fr. Adrian McCaffery| 2022
Homiletic & Pastoral Review

Before Christ ascends into heaven, we already have the promise of his return. Jesus, we hear, “who has been taken up from you into heaven, will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” Just as the Passion and Death anticipated the Resurrection, so does Christ’s Ascension anticipate the Second Coming, Christ’s Return.

But do we anticipate it? We live, we Christians of the last two thousand years, in the time of the Holy Spirit, the age of the Advocate. Are our thoughts, in any case, enough turned toward the Second Coming of Christ? Does his Second Coming direct our thoughts frequently enough? For the Church anticipates, has anticipated, continues to anticipate Christ’s Return, longs for it, strives for it. All our good work presupposes it. Christianity without Christ’s Return is no Christianity at all; for then it is an empty promise. The Age of the Spirit makes no sense if it is not an age that works toward the Second Coming.


Consecrated to Love and Unity


Claret Media Cameroon

7th Sunday of EasterThis time between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday is kind of a mini-Advent for the Church, it is a time of waiting for God the Holy Spirit to come to us in a more powerful way. It is a time we must consecrate ourselves to the truth and to the love of our brothers and sisters. It is a time of intense prayer and waiting for the Holy Spirit to be born in a deeper way in our hearts…. Christ is seen today therefore at prayer. Our Gospel today presents us with the priestly prayer of Jesus.





PENTECOST – When I took English class in high school, one teacher had a technique for lessons in public speaking, and I hated it. Not every day, but when you did not expect it, he would look around the room and point at one person in the class. You would have to come up front and stand facing everyone else. Then the teacher would give you a topic like “Bicycles” or “Squirrels,” and you had to give a spontaneous speech on that theme. As if that weren’t enough, when you were done, he asked everyone else in the class to criticize your presentation. The goal was to help us gain self-confidence, but it was largely an exercise in humility. You have probably had moments when in front of other people or just in conversation with someone you were on the spot to say something, and you failed to find the right words. In social media people sometimes post statements they wish they could take back. But you have probably had other moments when miraculously you said the right words. As a parent you gave spot-on advice to your child that made a difference; as an applicant you said the right things in your interview and got the job; as a suitor you spoke the words that finally won the heart of the person you loved more than anyone else. When you think about it later, you wonder, “Where did those words come from?” We may say amazing things we could never have practiced. Some people take all the credit for their brilliance. But Jesus gave the credit to another source: the Holy Spirit.

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In the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine: Celebrant & Homilist: Rev. William Byrne Guest Choir: Saint Paul VI High School Choir, Arlington, Virginia

Featured Homilies (2019, 2016)

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