Sunday Sermon for May 20, 2012, the Solemnity of the Ascension
Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1: 17-23; Mk 16:15-20
In the second reading today St. Paul prays that we will be enlightened to know the hope that belongs to the call God has given us and the riches of His glory in His inheritance. The call that is ours is, above all, a call to holiness. St. Paul alludes to this when he speaks of the inheritance among the holy ones, the Saints. The manner in which is call is lived is first of all, according to our faith. Secondly, it must be lived according to the state in life to which God has called us individually.
This call to holiness is for each and every person, regardless of vocation or state in life. Every person is called to be holy. Imagine what things would be like if we were all growing in holiness and striving to live according to the norms of justice and charity. Holiness is God-likeness. We all know that we were created in the image of God, so the more we grow in holiness, the more like Him we become. We all marvel when we see the holiness of certain Saints, but it should not be a marvel to us; each of us is supposed to be holy like that as well.
The way holiness is lived will be different for each person. When we read the lives of the Saints we come to understand that God works with each person individually. No two Saints became Saints in the same way. God takes your personality and your vocation into consideration, then brings people and situations into your life to purify you and to form you into the Saint He wants for you to be.
This brings us to the critical question of why we would want to become holy. Having read the lives of the Saints we know that holiness requires a lot of suffering and a lot of humiliation; most of us do not want either. Our pride is so immense that we often seek glory for ourselves and forget all about God, let alone any sense of humility. Beyond that, our world is so pleasure oriented that we try to run away from anything that smacks of suffering. The problem, when you look at both of these areas, is that we are just plain selfish. Selfishness is the opposite of charity and charity is the same as God-likeness or holiness.
God knows our weaknesses very well, so He also knew that there would have to be an incentive for most of us. There are a few heroic individuals who truly love God because He is God and deserves to be loved. Most of us are too selfish and we “love” Him for what we can get out of it, which means that it is not love at all (hence, the necessity of being purified). The heroic souls, the great Saints, would at times say that if God sent them to hell then they would love Him in hell. For most of us, however, we have to admit that it is a struggle just to love Him on earth. For this reason He gave us the incentive of an inheritance which is nothing less that God Himself and life with Him for eternity in Heaven.
In His ascension, our Lord has opened the gates of Heaven that were closed due to human sin. We hear in all three readings today that Jesus has gone to Heaven and that He has taken His seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Our inheritance is a share in this glory. We are already members of the Mystical Person of Jesus Christ so, in that sense, we can say that we are wherever he is. He is with us here on earth and we are with Him in His glory in Heaven.
Now we have to make the decision of whether or not we want to share in that glory for eternity. While most of us would answer in the affirmative, we need to recognize that it is not just a want or a desire, it must be an act of the will. In other words, we have to live it in this world so that it will be ours in the next. In the first reading the Apostles asked if our Lord was going to restore the Kingdom to Israel; instead, what He has done is to infuse that Kingdom into each of us who are baptized into Him. He has given us everything we need to choose Him and to live it out.
Once the Apostles understood this they lived and preached this Kingdom; now they have entered into it. What is God asking of you? Pray for enlightenment so that you may know the hope of your call and the riches of God’s glory in His inheritance.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.