A HOMILY FOR THE FEAST OF THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD – CYCLE “B” – 5/13/18 – SMG
+ Pax et Bonum! Peace and Goodness to you on this Feast of the Ascension!
In the years that have passed, since the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960’s, it has become very easy for us to forget, just how crazy those times were after the Council was completed in 1965, and chaotic the years from 1965 to really, even as late as the late 1970’s were for the Church. It took several years for the reforms and renewals from the Council to be put into place, and to be fully understood. Now, I know, this is like ancient history for many of you. But all of us must understand, that it took years to get the reforms right. It was not an easy time for the Catholic Church. Mass was suddenly in English. The priest was facing the people. Lay people were suddenly much more involved in the Mass. And the Altar was pulled away from the wall, so that it would resemble much more, the table from the Last Supper. These changes were not easy for many Catholics. In fact Catholics walked away from the Faith. The changes were just too much for them to handle. And what is also true, is that in some places, the changes really weren’t explained as well as they should have been. It was a tumultuous time in the Church!
Perhaps there’s no better example of how crazy those days were, then when you look at music at Mass during some of those transitional years. For a while, it seemed like it was anything goes. Many thought, that with Vatican II’s reforms and opening the window to less traditional music, that we could sing and play, just about anything at Mass. I can remember very vividly that at my parish when I was a young boy, that we sang the Beatles’ “Let it be” and Simon and Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence” at Mass, as hymns. It was crazy! It was like pop music had taken over liturgical music. At that same time, I can remember going to church for the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, the very Feast that we gather together for today, and I remember the opening hymn, was “Up, Up, and Away” by the 5th Dimension. I kid you not! “Up, up, and away, my beautiful, my beautiful balloon!” Seriously! That’s how crazy those days were. They didn’t last very long, because the Vatican realized that serious guidelines were needed, even for, especially for liturgical music. This is exactly why you can’t have your favorite Kenny Chesney song sung at your wedding, as least not at church. You can blame Vatican II, and its aftermath!
There are two extremely important things that I want you to remember from today’s Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, as we celebrate Jesus ascending body and soul into Heaven at the end of His life on this earth. And neither one of them have to do with the music that we will sing today.
The First thing is that when Jesus left the Apostles, on that day, almost two-thousand years ago, they had a job to do! They weren’t just supposed to stand there gawking at the sky, where He disappeared into the clouds. Jesus’ Ascension signaled the beginning of the age of the Apostles. Now, it was their turn to get to work, and start actually building the Kingdom of God, that they had heard Jesus talk about, for all that time. Jesus goes away, and the responsibility shifts to them. In many ways, today, it is the same for all of us. The Ascension is graduation day for all of us. We have enjoyed six weeks of Easter. Now, it is our time to get serious about going to work for our Lord, and about building His Kingdom in our midst. This is our time to go to work. This is our time to get busy! There is a certain responsibility that comes with this Feast day. Now it is our turn to be fishers of men, and build up the Church. We must take seriously that job, that responsibility! Someday, God is going to ask us how we did at that job. What kind of answer are we going to be able to give Him in return? Because I promise you, if ever you are going to want to have a great answer? It going to be then!
The second most important thing that we need to take away from this Feast Day, this celebration of the Ascension, is the acknowledgment that Jesus Himself said that one day, He was going to return. It’s been almost two-thousand years now. It would be very easy for us to think, that if He hasn’t returned by now, that maybe He has just forgotten about that whole coming back thing. And that would be a really bad assumption for us to make. Our God has always been faithful to each and every one of His promises. God didn’t just forget. He is giving us to time to repent, seek forgiveness, and come back to Him! One day, when we least expect it, He is coming back. And just as suddenly as He left us two-thousand years ago, the clouds are going to open up, the trumpets will sound, and it will be time for the final judgment. We would do well to be ready, and living for that day, every day of our lives. My brothers and sisters, it is coming. At some time, on some day, Jesus is going to return. He promised us that. It is only a matter of time until it happens. Would you be ready on that day? Would you be prepared to face your judgment and your Maker? We need to do a better job of remembering that we belong to Him, and that we must be accountable to Him. The Ascension reminds us that just as surely as He left us, that one day He will be back. May we always be ready and waiting for that day, so that we are not surprised.
So, while we have some beautiful music planned for today’s celebration, I do sincerely hope that many years from now, you won’t be telling your friends, “I can’t believe we sang “Up, Up, and Away!” at our Feast of the Ascension Mass at St. Maria Goretti back in 2018. What I do hope you remember, for many years, is that it is time for us all to go to work, building God’s Kingdom, and that we always have to remember that He is coming back, and we must be ready for that day.
Remembering those things, and not some pop song, will be what will get us safely home to Heaven, where Jesus has gone before us, to prepare a place for us, in His Kingdom!
+ May God bless us as we work for that Kingdom, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit… AMEN !!!
St. Maria Goretti… Pray for us !!!