28 May 20177 Easter

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
7 Easter
Seventh Sunday of Easter - A Cycle - John 17:1-11

Abraham Lincoln won over more people to his cause by his death than he would have had there been no assassination. Begin with Edwin Stanton, his Secretary of War. Early in his administration, Stanton had sneeringly referred to him as "that giraffe." But immediately after the president's murder, Stanton blubbered tearfully, "There lies the greatest ruler...the world has ever seen." Your personal radar should be warning you that today you are walking into awesome country. For this is the only Gospel where the Teacher names Himself "Jesus Christ." Jesus has eaten sparingly. Still He reluctantly pushes away from the table in that famous Upper Room that Thursday eve. You would be reluctant too if you knew what the next day was offering. The Last Supper is history. Surrounded by His well-fed guests, He walks out into the air. The clever John sets the scene by telling us the Master raises His eyes to the heavens. Then, under the starry, starry night, He begins what has come to be known in history as the priestly prayer.

As you listen to Him speak to His Father, you fear that you are listening to a conversation that was meant to be private. In the first five verses, He prays for Himself. And, in the balance of today's Gospel, He prays for His colleagues. They are shuffling restlessly about Him and thinking only of an after-dinner cognac, a Havana cigar, and a good night's sleep. At this point, Jesus is the King who must die. Yet, He says, "Father...glorify your Son that your Son may glorify you." What is this all about? How could He be so upbeat? It is one of the strange paradoxes of history that death is often the entrance into glory. (William Barclay) As it was with Lincoln, so too it is with Christ. Matthew 27:54 tells us that the Centurion on Calvary was overwhelmed by the majesty of the death he had just witnessed. And there burst out of him that eternal one-liner, "Clearly this was the Son of God!" And, as it was for the nameless Centurion, so it remains for you and me almost 2000 years after the fact. "In hoc signo, vinces." Erase Good Friday and you would have to put the glory of Easter Sunday in the back of the file cabinet. Yet some in each century insist on removing the cross from Christianity.

But what do they end up with? A la carte choosings from the message of Jesus: a sample of this and a sample of that. Many Christians are not able to see the redemptive value in suffering. In time of difficulties, they are deprived of a model to emulate. God is neglected and a false god embraced for one's own fulfillment and kicks. Stripping Christianity of the cross prompts the question, "Where's the beef?" "I have...finished the work that you gave me to do." Once Christ had finished that celebrated supper, He could have rolled up His sleeping bag and retreated north on a long fishing holiday to the Sea of Galilee. Not even the Father would have gotten in His way to ask, "Quo vadis?" Yet, had He listened to His fears and exited the programmed crucifixion, you and I would never have known just how much God was willing to expend for us. The Son freely walked into a horrendous murder. Cannot even the dullest among us guess at the love God has for everyone of us?

And, as the Christ stayed the course, so also must we. "Eternal life is this: to know you, the only true God." To know the only true God means much, much more than knowing Him with one's brainpan. It is to know Him with heart and the spirit. Sigmund Freud wrote, "In small matters trust the mind but in the large ones the heart." Thanks to Christ, we know that God is not playing the recluse on us. Quite the contrary! He is very definitely within our reach and touch. Is it possible that the Teacher could have been more graphic and blunt in His language? I think not. I attended a grammar school concert. The man next to me told me his son was singing in the choir. "Wait till you hear him." The concert began. The choir was made up of eighty boys and girls. The father asked, "Doesn't he sing beautifully?" I of course could not hear the boy, but I was certain his father could. God is the same with ourselves. Though we are all part of a huge chorus that makes up the six billion plus people in the world, He is able to hear each of us as though we were singing solo.

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
7 Easter
Solemnity of the Ascension: Tell the World that Jesus Lives

The disciples climbed the hill in Galilee and saw the Lord being taken up into heaven. But first he gave them a mandate and a promise. The mandate was to go, make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all that I have commanded you. The promise was that they would not do this alone: Know that I am with you always, until the end of the age. The angels in today's gospel are saying this to us, "Men of Galilee, men of the New Israel, men of the Church why are you looking up? Women of Galilee, women of the New Israel, women of the Church, don't look at the sky. And, all of you, stop contemplating your navels. No, get to work. Others need to know about the heights and depths of God's working in our lives.” And so we are told to tell the world that Jesus lives. "Know that I am with you always.” The Solemnity of the Ascension is a call for us to tell the world that Jesus is still with us. How do we do this?

Simply by utilizing the gifts the Lord has given us. Do you make friends easily? Then, befriend those who are alone in the world. Perhaps that loner in school, that elderly man in his apartment, that cousin no one talks to, perhaps they and many others need to know that they are not alone. Your friendship can help them understand their value before the Lord. Do you multitask well? Are you one of those people who can do three things at once, while texting in the background. Then use your talent to do things for others. How can you say you are too busy? You have the ability to be busy doing the Lord's work while you are still doing your normal projects. Some people can't even go from one thing to another. But you can. Fill your day in giving witness to Jesus. Be loving and caring. Tell the world that Jesus lives. Do you have a particular expertise that can help others? Are you a teacher, a lawyer, a doctor, a nurse, a paramedic, or one of the many other service professionals? Well, stop seeing people as paying customers and start seeing them as people sent to you so you can use your expertise to help them find God.

Perhaps a teacher can tutor a sick child, or the member of a medical profession can volunteer in a clinic, or a lawyer can give advise to the impoverished, all making it very clear that they are treasured by God. That's how you can tell them that Jesus lives. Are you really good with your hands? Does carpentry come easy to you? Well, you have skill. Have you ever considered volunteering for an organization like Habitat for humanity? How about fixing things? Are you good at that? Do you have any idea how much you are needed by elderly widows trying their best to stay in the homes and not knowing what to do when something breaks. Check in on them. Fix it for free and let them know that Jesus lives. Do you like traveling? Does the thought of going off to exotic lands excite you? Then consider volunteering to help the poor in Haiti, the Caribbean, Central America, Africa or Asia, or, perhaps, traveling here to the poor in Appalachia.

Let others know that you are happy to undertake a long journey to them if it helps them take a step closer to God. That's how you can tell the world that Jesus lives. Does your heart go out for the poor? This is a gift. Have you ever thought of volunteering at a soup kitchen, or a homeless shelter like Pinellas Hope? Let these people know that you are with them because Jesus Christ cares for them. Perhaps you are convinced that you need to do something that is not all that comfortable for you. Maybe you feel that you are called to jail or prison ministry even though jails and prisons frighten you. But, you think, there are people there who have the time to look closely at their lives and conform their lives not just to society, but to God. Or maybe you have considered spending time with people in the last days of their lives. But the thought of being with a dying person upsets you. Still, you know you can do it, and you have to do it. Remember, the Lord came to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. He often calls us out of our comfort zone. So, go out and do it! Tell the world that Jesus lives. People are led to the Lord by other people, people who give witness to the living presence of Jesus Christ by their actions. People are led to the Lord by people like us who stop gazing up into the sky and go out to proclaim to the world that Jesus lives.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
7 Easter
Life in Christ Week 7: Mission (May 28, 2017)

Message: Jesus does not give heaven on earth; he gives a mission. On this seventh Sunday of Easter we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus: God mounts his throne to shouts of joy, a blare of trumpets for the Lord. How does Jesus' Ascension tie with our theme - Life in Christ? How does Jesus' going away help us? Before I say what Jesus' Ascension does for us, I'd like to clarify what it does not do. In the first reading we hear the disciples ask Jesus, "Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" The early disciples are like us. They want heaven one earth. I remember a conversation with a bright young woman. I asked her about her dreams. She said what she was most looking forward to was retiring!

For sure, she was not thinking about retirement as the elderly experience it: a few years of increasing physical ailments and loneliness. Rather she was imagining a state of ongoing rest and satisfaction, a perpetual Caribbean cruise. What she longed for was not retirement, but heaven. So do we all. The great scientist philosopher Blaise Pascal said: "Let each one examine his thoughts, and he will find them all occupied with the past and the future. We scarcely ever think of the present; and if we think of it, it is only to take light from it to arrange the future." We are constantly arranging our lives for some moment in the future when we will really be happy. Now, Jesus does want us to be happy, but he does not offer heaven on earth. He is not like some politician who says that if you vote for me everything will work out right.

One hundred years ago a small group of men in Russia told people that if they gained power they would literally bring heaven on earth: Peace! Bread! Land! they promised. One hundred years later we know they did not bring heaven on earth. They brought the worst hell in human history. If you think some political system can bring heaven on earth, read The Gulag Archipelago. Jesus did not bring heaven on earth. What then did he bring? We see it in today's Gospel. Ascending to heaven, Jesus gives the disciples a mission: "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." This is Jesus' mission statement. We took it up ourselves when we spent 18 months discerning God's plan for our parish. Here's our mission: "Blessed to live in this beautiful valley, we are Christians, in union with Pope Francis and Archbishop Sartain, who strive to lift up Jesus, love one another and make disciples." When we say "lift up Jesus" we of course recognize that the Father raises Jesus to the right hand.

And we know Jesus himself is God - consubstantial with the Father. So in saying "lift up Jesus" we refer to something humbler: what we do at Mass. When the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus - by the power of the Holy Spirit - the priest, who represents the people, literally lifts us Jesus. We do that so Jesus will lift us up. We need Jesus to lift us up. We become bogged down, depressed, confused, even paralyzed. When you fall on your face, when darkness overcomes you, lift up Jesus. Take a small cross or your rosary or your Bible. Jesus will lift you up - and give you a mission. It's interesting that after Jesus ascends he sends two men with a message. The two men may be Moses and Elijah who appeared next to Jesus at the Transfiguration - or perhaps the two men dressed in white garments refer to angels. If you are curious about questions like these, come to my Bible study on Monday evening.

For now we focus not on who the two men are but on what they say: Stop looking up to heaven; you have a mission right here. Focus on what is right in front of you, on what God wants you to do today. Leave tomorrow in God's hand. Say, "Jesus, I trust in you." We've seen the misery men bring when they seek heaven on earth but we've also seen the blessings that come when disciples embrace Jesus' mission. St Teresa of Calcutta focused on lifting up Jesus and few others did more than her to alleviate human suffering. We can each make the world a little better, but we cannot do it on our own. We need a source of power. More about that next week. I only ask this: wear something red. Red represents fire. Jesus wants to give us fire. That's next weekend. Today remember this: Jesus does not give us heaven on earth; he gives us a mission. Amen.
Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe,Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
7 Easter
Seventh Sunday of Easter, Modern Gospel
John 14; 1 12

This past Thursday the Feast of the Ascension was celebrated in the dioceses in the Northeast part of the USA and in Nebraska. The rest of the dioceses celebrate the Feast of Ascension this weekend. On Ascension Day the reading from the Acts of the Apostles and from the Gospel of Matthew give an account of Risen Lord ascending to heaven. In Luke's Gospel Jesus instructs the apostles and disciples to return to Jerusalem to wait and to pray. The Gospels and Acts tell of Jesus preparing the apostles for the Spirit either at the Last Supper or on Ascension Day itself. The Gospel for the Seventh Sunday of Easter Is part of the Prayer of Jesus at the Last Supper in which he prays for his followers because they accepted the Lord, understood that Jesus was sent by the Father, and believed in the Father. All they need is the completion of their experience of the Holy Trinity in which the Holy Spirit will give them the gifts needed to move their faith into powerful action.

The reading from Acts describes what the followers did after the Ascension. They returned to Jerusalem, went to the upper room, and devoted themselves to prayer. They waited and prayed for the prayer and instructions of Jesus to be fulfilled. Waiting and praying are not always easy for us to do, we much prefer to pray and receive an immediate response. Jesus did not give them a specific time line for how long they should wait and pray, they merely had to do so as an act of faith. Would the paraclete come to them in one day?, three days?, seven days or forty days?

They had no idea, they simply followed the instructions of Jesus and gathered each day to wait and pray. There are two lessons for us in this reading. The first is that we can take the period of time between the Ascension and Pentecost and make it a novena to the Holy Spirit. A time of prayer for us to be renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit that we received at Baptism and Confirmation. A novena that moves us to surrender ourselves more to the Lord and to be open to whatever gifts he desires to bless us with. There might be some gifts that we are hesitant to receive, either because we lack the desire for a particular gift or feel inadequate about one gift or the other.

True openness in prayer is to surrender ourselves completely to God's desire for us. That is being open to receive and use whatever gifts God pours out to us through the Holy Spirit. The first lesson is the immediate one of preparing for this upcoming Feast of Pentecost. The second lesson is one of patience in prayer. How often do we bring some petition to the Lord in prayer and get frustrated or discouraged when it is not immediately answered in some way? Jesus' instruction to his followers that lacked a definite time, was a lesson for them to truly trust in God and his plan. It's a lesson that mature faith requires living with patience and continued faith when we put our prayer requests before God. It means putting our time aside and entering into God's time which is without beginning and end. May we take advantage of these days to wait and pray for God to act in our lives both by renewing the Holy Spirit within us, and blessing us with the faith and patience to continually come before the Lord with our prayers. Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Seventh Sunday of Easter,
Classic John 17:1-11a

Gospel Summary
The mystical intimacy and poetic beauty of this prayer of Jesus with the Father make any attempt to summarize it quite futile. The following highlights of the prayer are intended merely to serve as an aid to memory for personal reflection: the hour has come when the mystery of eternal life is revealed in glory; to know the Father and Jesus Christ is eternal life; Jesus prays for all who believe in him in every age; Jesus is no longer in the world, but those who accept him remain in the world to manifest his glory. Life Implications First there is the gift of peace and joy that comes from the realization that Jesus talks with us and prays for us at our Eucharist just as he talked with his disciples and prayed for them at the Last Supper.

He tells us that though we, like them, remain in a world of darkness and death, our hearts need not be troubled and afraid: "In the world you will have trouble, but take courage, I have conquered the world" (Jn 16:33). In his prayer Jesus reveals the meaning of eternal life: it is to know the Father and to know him, the one the Father has sent into the world. John, in the section of his gospel preceding the prayer, fully elaborates what Jesus means by "knowing" the Father and the one whom the Father has sent. Jesus knows the Father and the Father knows Jesus because they live in each other: "Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? (Jn 14:10)?

To receive the gift of the divine "knowing" that is eternal life means to share in the relation of love between Father and his Son, Jesus Christ: "On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you" (Jn 14:20). In praying with the Spirit we come to know more deeply that Jesus came into the world to manifest the glory of the Father's name through love, ultimately the act of love on the cross. To be a disciple in our world today means to manifest the same divine glory through love so that all may come to enjoy the gift of eternal life. "Righteous Father, the world also does not know you, but I know you . . . I made known to them your name . . . that the love with which you loved me may be in them and I in them? (Jn 17: 25-26).
Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
7 Easter
Feast of the Ascension

The Feast of the Ascension marks the completion of Christ's work of salvation. Having accomplished his mission on earth Jesus returns to his rightful place at the side of the Father. Even though he no longer lives with us the work of God continues in the world with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles which we celebrate in a week's time. You might think that there is something a bit peculiar about the Ascension, something a bit strange about the image of Christ rising vertically to the heavens. The words used in the Acts of the Apostles are that ‘he was lifted up while they looked on until a cloud took him from their sight.' Even though during his life on earth we know that Jesus could perform miracles and seemingly, after the resurrection, could even appear and disappear at will, the idea of him rising vertically up into the sky is hard to credit. I was once amused at hearing a friend of my father describe the Ascension as, ‘The Feast of the Vertical Take-Off.' I've actually seen rustic sculptures in Bavaria amusingly showing a pair of feet poking out of a cloud in an effort to depict the Ascension. However it is portrayed, the Ascension of Jesus is a historical fact.

Whether Jesus actually made a sort of vertical take-off or whether he disappeared in some other way, he had to return to his rightful place with the Father in heaven. Once his work was accomplished and this included a few post-resurrection appearances, so that there was no mistake that he had actually risen, and some last-minute farewell words, Jesus had to return to the Father. He wasn't going to die again and so there had to be a mechanism which would permit him to return to heaven; and rising through the clouds is as good a way as any. The important thing for us is that Jesus has accomplished the work of salvation and it is now our role to get on with making that salvation a reality for everyone in the world. If we think of the Nativity as marking the beginning of Jesus' work then the Ascension marks its completion and according to me these two feasts ought to be celebrated with an equal amount of joy and feasting. Sadly, in the liturgy, the Feast of the Ascension ends up being treated as a minor event. Some years ago, when it was a Holyday of Obligation, the Ascension was generally one of the worst attended of them all.

Today in England and Wales the feast has been transferred to the nearest Sunday so at least it is marked by more people who listen to the account of the Ascension in the scripture readings and have its meaning and purpose explained to them by the priest. Nevertheless, the Ascension doesn't seem to be regarded with the same importance as Pentecost or Corpus Christi which generally occur around the same time. In our liturgy today we try to celebrate the Ascension with a certain solemnity and we sing appropriate hymns which draw our attention to the importance of the feast. It is vital to realise that this was a bodily return to heaven. Jesus is not like us who leave a cadaver behind while our souls fly up to God. The significance of the feast is that Jesus returns to the Father with his body intact. We should note that this body is his risen body and although it bears the marks of the Crucifixion in his hands, feet and side it is not exactly the same as our bodies since we know that in this body Jesus was able to appear and disappear at will. The important point here is that Jesus retains his humanity.

As we know Jesus is both fully human and fully divine and the biblical account of the Ascension affirms that Jesus holds on to his humanity, it is not something that he adopts at his birth and leaves off at his death. The fact that Jesus returns to the Father with his humanity intact tells us that our own humanity is fit for the Kingdom of God. We realise that heaven is our true destiny and that on that final day of days we too will be reunited with our bodies. At that point, we speak of them as glorified bodies because we will be then living in a new and non-physical spiritual realm, nevertheless we understand that they will be recognisably human, identifiably ourselves. The disciples were told by the angels who appeared immediately after the Ascension, ‘This same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.' By this we understand that on the Last Day Jesus will return and sit in judgement as a recognisable human person. We will all gather before him on that great day of days in order to face the final and general judgement. What this means is that the Ascension is the ultimate affirmation of the importance of our bodily existence.

Christ adopts our human form, he lives with us, he dies and rises from the dead and with this body he returns to the Father. Jesus remains both human and divine ever afterwards. We in our turn, are on the Last Day reunited with our bodies in a glorified form and are enabled to live with God forever in heaven. So, you can see that this lovely Feast of the Ascension is celebrating some important things. What it means has great significance for each one of us. The events of the first Ascension Day mean that our humanity is fully recognised and sanctified by God. Despite all that has happened, despite the fall of man, regardless of all the sinfulness, we are now redeemed and the way to eternal life is opened up for us. And this eternal life is not just for a spiritual part of ourselves but it is for the whole of us, for our bodies and for our souls. It is also instructive to look at the actions of the disciples as Jesus was withdrawn from them. It says in the text that they were still staring into the sky when the angels came to give them an explanation. I have often heard it said that this is how we should live our lives in the post-Ascension world, with our eyes fixed on heaven. Well, maybe not both our eyes on heaven, as we need one eye to see the things on earth, the things that are in front of us. What we need perhaps is one metaphorical eye still gazing up at heaven while we live out our lives here in this world. We need to keep one eye on our final destination to make sure that we do not lose sight of it. We ought always to make sure that we keep an eye on our final goal. Where Jesus has gone we will surely follow and it is vital for us to keep the desire to attain that goal, to be with him for all eternity, as well as throughout the entirety of our lives here on earth.

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