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May 29, 2022: The Ascension of the Lord - Pastor’s Corner

Aloha. It’s a traditional Hawaiian greeting used to express both hello and goodbye, depending on the context.  The celebration of the Ascension is Jesus’ “Aloha” moment.  Forty days after the Resurrection, Jesus ascends to greet his Father even as he says goodbye to his disciples.  In other words, at the Ascension, Jesus goes from us to be for us

This can be understood as Jesus going from us, that is, His body and soul departs in order to definitively enter into heaven.  But in another way, by the Ascension, Jesus goes for us. The Ascension marks the culminating marriage of humanity with divinity as Jesus enters body and soul into heaven. Now once and for all, humanity sits at “the right hand of the Father” and intercedes for us all.  Jesus’ Ascension is the supreme moment of hope, pointing to our ultimate vocation.  Where He once was, we now are; where He is now, we are destined to be.

And yet questions remain.  Once, in explaining the Feast of the Ascension to a group of 3rd graders, I was asked, “If Jesus loves us and lives forever, why did he leave?”  It’s an excellent question.  Again, consider Jesus’ final words before the Ascension.  After instructing his disciples to preach, teach and baptize all nations, he reassures them with the promise “know that I am with you always.” And then he leaves, He ascends.  With good reason, we wonder how Jesus’ Ascension does not vitiate His promise to be with us. 

This leads us to the Holy Spirit.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus explains the Ascension when He says “I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go, for if I do not go, my Spirit, the Counselor, will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”   Jesus ascends so that He can send His Spirit into our heart.  This is why he instructs His followers to return to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.  Christ promises: “you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.”  In order to fulfill His command to be witnesses to the Gospel, the disciples need the empowerment of the Spirit. 

Here we discover the deepest sense of the Ascension as Jesus’ “Aloha” moment. The word Aloha literally means: “the breath of life.” More than simply a greeting or goodbye, it refers to a way of living in the breath and spirit which gives us life.  Jesus does not just leave us but empowers us to live in His Spirit.  The feast of the Ascension reminds us of our final home, while challenging us to discover where the Spirit is alive in our daily life.  In order to receive the Spirit, we must follow the disciples, who after the Ascension, returned to the Upper Room of the Last Supper to wait in joyful hope.  This original novena (there are traditionally nine days between Ascension Thursday and Pentecost Sunday) prepared the minds and hearts of the disciples to be open to the promptings of the Spirit, so that they could preach with courage.  Are we ready for the Spirit to renew our lives?  How can we prepare?  One prayer that I love to say during this time is the Prayer to the Holy Spirit.  During this novena week, I invite you to join in praying this prayer every day.  Make it your morning prayer. Take time to reflect on how you can open yourself to the daily promptings of the Spirit. Discover Christ afresh in our lives and share this inspiration with others. Aloha.

~ Fr. Michael

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful 
and kindle in them the fire of your love. 
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. 
And You shall renew the face of the earth. 

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, 
did instruct the hearts of the faithful, 
grant that by the same Holy Spirit 
we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, 
Through Christ Our Lord. Amen.

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