Here are a few thoughts that I offered at Masses over this Ascension Tide Weekend. The idea is not original to me. I am grateful to Father Montgomery of the Shrewsbury Diocese for the original inspiration.
We gather this weekend to celebrate liturgically the Solemnity of Our Lord's Ascension. The feast of the Ascension occurred last Thursday, marking the 40th Day since the Resurrection. The liturgical observance has been transferred to this weekend by the Bishops Conference a few years ago.
However I want you to cast your minds back to Christmas. No, Father hasn't completely flipped. The events of the Incarnation (Christmas) and the Ascension (Our Lord's return in glory to His Father) are closely linked.
At Christmas we gathered amidst turkey and tinsel and the odd glass of oh be joyful and sang:
He came down to earth from heaven
who is God and Lord of all
And His shelter was a stable
and His cradle was a stall
with the poor and mean and lowly
lived on earth our Saviour holy.
We will sing those words again at Mass to-day. It might seem a little strange to us to be singing carols at the beginning of June but it helps us to highlight and reflect upon the Christ Child who came to earth. The Child who was born in the dirty stable at Bethlehem is the same Child who has risen and ascended to the heights of heaven. Where he has gone we hope to follow.
The hope of heaven is given to us at Christmas. We sang then and we will sing again today
And our eyes at last shall see Him
through His own redeeming love
for that Child so dear and gentle
is our Lord in heaven about
and He leads his children on
to the place where He is gone.
The trouble is most people live their lives as if this world were all that there is. Once we die that's it. We are put in a box and buried or carted off to the crem for a quick service and then sent to the flames. If this life is all there is then we may as well go home now.
More and more common at funerals we have a 'Celebration of the life of.........' And we recall the many things good that the deceased have done in their lives but often with the thought that now the person has died, that's it. There is very little mention of eternal life in heaven. And when there is mention of heaven it is nearly always portrayed in terms of the deceased being already there. Then miserable priests like me come along and start talking about purgatory and being cleansed of the last traces of sin on our souls before we can get into heaven.
Our eyes have to be firmly fixed on heaven as our final goal, our final end. The Child born of Mary has now ascended into the glory of heaven - wearing not the fig leaves that Adam and Eve had to quickly make to hide their nakedness, but 'veiled in flesh, our Great High Priest' as we sang in our opening hymn.
Where Christ has gone we hope to follow. Let us have our eyes firmly fixed on heaven as our final goal. Having that thought should influence the way that we live our lives here on earth....
Credo in Unum Deum....