Mass for Sunday 12 May Feast of the Ascension
Mass Celebrated by Archbishop Denis Hart at St Patrick's Cathedral Melbourne on Sunday 12 May 2013 at 11.00 am
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The vivid picture of Our Lord departing from the Apostles rings in our ears. His words "You are witnesses", remind us that the life-changing events of our life relate to Jesus dying, rising and preaching the Good News to all peoples.
Far from being the end of the story, it is a challenging beginning for the life of the Church in which we are intimately involved. Sister Verna Holyhead, in commenting on the Ascension, suggests that older icons of the Ascension depict Jesus' feet dangling from a cloud, and a small group of disciples huddling underneath, gaping upwards. She says that we see those disciples as representatives of future generations who still need to gaze into the mystery of Christ for more wisdom.
Jesus is the victorious leader. We are under his feet and under his care. The Ascension also involves the mission given to each of the Apostles and the loving care which God gives to each of us to develop our talents in our chosen field. As we ponder the Ascension we see also that the Church's mission continues the mission of Jesus, just as Saint Luke emphasises that all Jesus said and did was under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
A Jewish Rabbi, Abraham Heschel, said: "The world is dark and human agony is excruciating, but the believer casts a light by which the heart is led into the thinking of the Lord's mind." And William Barclay, in his commentary on these readings, says: "The Church is represented as the complement of Christ. Just as the eyes of our mind cannot become effective without the body, the tremendous action of Jesus cannot be made effective without the work of the Church. Christ is the head but we are the hands and feet. Christ is overall but graciously empowers us to participate in the process."
Notice upon his departure, that after explaining all that had been promised was being fulfilled, Jesus blessed the disciples, promised them the Holy Spirit and commissioned them to continue his mission. In Luke's Gospel, quoting Isaiah, this is "To bring the Good News to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives, give the blind new sight, to release the imprisoned and to announce a year of favour from the Lord."
So, like the Apostles we are challenged to consider the depth of our commitment today and every day, the quality of our service, and Jesus encourages us to rely on the gifts of the Holy Spirit whose power and grace are just as they were to Jesus' followers. The same Spirit guides our understanding of what we have read today and helps us to bring the faith we profess into our lives.
+ Denis J Hart
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE