Mass celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart at Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne

Sunday 13 May 2018, The Feast of the Ascension

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension when Jesus, by his own power, returned to his Father to prepare us for the promised Holy Spirit who would stay with us forever. The Ascension means that our minds must be continually on the things of heaven, living in the midst of the everyday. It is a moment when our wordless praise and joy is brought to God, who is always near to us.

Today the Christian community is invited to turn its gaze to the one who, forty days after his resurrection, “was lifted up before their eyes in a cloud which took him from their sight”. (Acts 1:9)

You and I are invited to renew our faith in Jesus, the only true hope of salvation for all humanity. When he went back to heaven he opened the pathway to our final homeland and now with the power of his spirit he sustains us in our daily pilgrimage on earth.

Jesus’ own words in the Gospel, “As you Father have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world”, shows that in the unfolding of God’s plan, whether in infancy or now in adult life, he has picked us out from all time to know that he is near and to be witnesses to him and he promised us the Holy Spirit to achieve that.

The Anglican pastor, John R. W. Stott, put it this way. “Before Christ sent the Church into the world he sent the Spirit into the Church.”

Saint Paul reminds the Ephesians that each of us has been given wisdom and insight, hope and strength and there is also the telling reminder, “God dwells in us and God’s love is brought to perfection in us … when anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in that person and he in God.”

My dear friends, the presence of newly baptised and received members of the Church is meant to sharpen our faith because Jesus has opened the way to our eternal home and provided the means for us to journey together. Jesus gives us his Word, his Sacraments, his constant love and the living presence of his Spirit to guide us.

We are encouraged by the newly baptised and received. We congratulate them, not merely for their enthusiasm, but for their deep, rich faith. May we live and walk together in that faith, know that we are given the power to witness to the risen Christ. The same Lord will guard us. Help us to carry him to the world.

We know that Jesus, who ascended to heaven, is now with the Father, but close to each of us forever. Each of us can be on intimate terms with him, can call upon him; the Lord is always within our hearing. We can inwardly draw away from him. We can live turning our backs on him, but he always waits for us and is close to us.

May the Lord who returned to his Father bring us on our way as we go forward from this day of joy and thanksgiving.

+ Denis J Hart
Archbishop of Melbourne

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