Homily for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord Year A
Theme: ASCENSION, BEYOND THE PHYSICS!
By: Fr. Ben Agbo
Homily for Thursday May 21 2020
* Act 1 : 1 – 11, Eph 1 : 17 – 23, Matt 28 : 16 – 20.
The Bible recorded that when Jesus saw that many of his followers protested against his teaching on the Eucharist as intolerable language – something preposterous to human reason, he even gave them a bigger poser about his Ascension : ‘Does this disturb you to believe? What if you should see the Son of man ascend to where he was before? It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh has nothing to offer’, Jn 6 : 63. We need to understand that heaven is essentially a spiritual place not physical. And so the doctrine about Ascension is beyond the physics. Come to think of it, the earth is actually spherical and not a flat surface for one to logically talk about ascension strictly speaking. So, when Jesus says ‘In my father’s house, there are many rooms’, Jn 14 : 2, we know he is only using anthropomorphic terms to describe metaphysical realities. Have we thought about what kind of persons will live in those rooms? Do spiritual bodies dwell in rooms? Where was Jesus actually ascending to? Was he actually ascending, scientifically speaking?
St Augustine tried to visualize what kind of bodies the Angels and Saints will assume after the resurrection and ended up calling it ‘spiritual bodies’. Going by what Jesus told Mary Magdalene when she tried to hug him after the resurrection : ‘Do not cling to me because I have not yet ascended to the Father…’, Jn 20 : 17, we get a little bit confused. One cannot but wonder what kind of body Jesus had then. Yet, we know that Thomas was able to touch and feel it, Jn 21 : 24 – 27. We learn in Physics that matter is anything that has weight and occupies space. If so, Christ’s resurrected body is matter. How then did it ascend into the heavens defying all laws of gravity? These are mysteries beyond our scientific minds.
St Paul, speaking about the Ascension says : ‘He went up to the heights, He took captives, and gave gifts to humanity’. This is in fulfillment of Christ’s promise : ‘If I do not go, the Paraclete will not come to you, but if I go, I will send him to you’, Jn 16 : 7. Just like the rainfall. If the sunshine does not take it up into the sky it will not pour down again on the surface of the earth. St Paul concludes it this way : ‘The mystery of our religion is indeed very deep (beyond the physical) :He was made visible in the flesh (Message of incarnation), seen by Angels (Christmas message), proclaimed to the Gentiles (Message of Epiphany), believed in throughout the world (the Catholic mysteries of the Light) and taken up in glory (Message of Ascension)’, 1 Tim 3 : 16.
Today’s celebration marks the end of the 40 days of Christ’s manifestations on earth in his trinitarian capacity as God the Son. He completed that mission and gave the mantle over to God the Holy Spirit, thus ushering in the Pentecostal era. Our 1st reading today says : ‘You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and then you will be my witnesses’. Does it mean the apostles having stayed for many years with Christ could not get the spiritual power they needed directly from him? I think we are expected from this season, to move our devotion to another person of the Trinity. Without becoming guilty of theological pluralism , one must realize as Benny Hiln said in his book ‘Good Morning Holy Spirit’ that ‘The 3rd person of the Trinity is waiting for you to meet Him personally. He yearns for a lifelong relationship’, pg 49. According to Hiln, the task of the Spirit is to bring into being the commandment of the Father and the performance of the Son. Example, God the Father said ‘Let there be light’, God the Son came and performed it, Jn 1 : 9. Then God the Holy Spirit brought the light (at Pentecost), Act 2 : 1 – 4. The feast of Ascension closes one era of Trinitarian manifestation and ushers us into another, yet it is the same one God at work.
Let’s flow with the Church in this apocalypse of Liturgical seasons. The Easter season, like the rainy season of our spiritual life is the longest and liveliest of all. But this year, we are celebrating it in fear. We need the Holy Spirit more in this period of great fear. In the South Eastern Nigeria, we are no longer merely afraid of CoViD 19 as it dangerously enters the stage of community transmission in our various states. We are getting more afraid of the danger of Fulanization/ terrorization as we see lorry loads of Fulani boys trooping in through our borders and defying all lockdown rules. Are they on a sex mission (pregnanting our ladies and turning them into Muslims) or a terrorist mission ( waiting for the opportune moment to attack us)? Only God can save us now because we no longer understand whether our Governors are still in charge of our security or whether they have caved in to the federal might. We need to go to the Upper room for corporate intercession.
Pentecost novena starts today. Happy Pentecost preparation!
* Song : Muo Nso bia O bia o n’I di anyi mkpa!!!