Homily on the Ascension
Here's a link to the readings I preached in the homily below:
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations. Jesus’ work on earth was complete. Before Ascending into Heaven, Jesus gave His disciples their marching orders, be witnesses to the Gospel and spread Good News. This mission was not meant for just the Apostles or Jesus’ followers at that time. This mission is meant for all of us as disciples of Jesus. But how do we accomplish this mission? Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The only way to have a friend is to be one.” I think we can accomplish this mission by a modification of this motto: The only way to make a disciple is the be a disciple.
But what does it mean to be a disciple? Very simply, it means following Jesus and mirroring Jesus to others. In more concrete terms, it means living out our faith in a way that people see Jesus in us in all our actions. Jesus left us many examples to follow in His footsteps but there are two that we hear about over and over. The first is prayer. Prayer is one of the fundamental practices to be a disciple. The Gospels often speak of Jesus taking time to pray, many times in a quiet place. Prayer must be a regular part of our daily lives.
Regular prayer may seem intimidating to some people. Or we may feel that we don’t pray enough or in the right way. However, developing a deeper prayer life is similar to physical exercise. I took up cycling many years ago. At first, I could only go a few miles. But once I built up some endurance, I was able to start riding further. After a while, I could participate in long distance charity rides. Prayer is the same way. You can start small, like praying the Our Father when you wake up and before bed. As time goes on, you’ll find the desire to pray more and add additional elements to your prayer life like the Rosary, Liturgy of the Hours, devotions, Adoration, etc. Like training your body, you’ll know when you’re ready to push yourself to that next step.
Through this prayer life, we build our relationship with God and with Jesus. We also open ourselves to listen to God speaking to us. In this way we can discern the Will of God for our lives. Through prayer, we also connect with the Holy Spirit. It is through the Holy Spirit that we receive the gifts we need to accomplish the work Jesus set out for us. The Holy Spirit also guides us in fulfilling the Will of God for our lives.
Another example Jesus provides us is from John chapter 13. At the Last Supper, Jesus says “As I have loved you, so you also should love one another, This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another”. In order to be a disciple, Jesus tells us we must love one another. Love is one of the foundations of Jesus’ ministry. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives us the greatest commandments: love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. Love is the outward expression of discipleship. This is a sacrificial love that places the good of another ahead of our own needs. This sacrificial love can be expressed in ministry, performing the corporal works of mercy, or in our everyday actions at work and at home. St Theresa of Calcutta said “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” In everything we do we should show others the love that God shows us.
Maintaining this prayer life and loving others can be difficult for us. Where can we find the strength to continue and grow in prayer and love? In our Gospel, Jesus tells us He will be with us until the of the age. He keeps this promise through the Eucharist, which must be the source of our strength. The Eucharist is the True Presence of Jesus that literally becomes part of us as we partake in the Body and Blood of Christ. It is this intimate communion with God that inspires us to be more like Jesus in loving God and neighbor. It is the presence of God within us that makes us desire to pray more. The Eucharist gives us the strength to “go and announce the Gospel of the Lord” as the words of dismissal say at Mass’ end.
By being a disciple in this way, we become a light to others. This light will be obvious to others and cause them to ask about the source of this light. We can then honestly reply that this light is not our own, but the light of Jesus shining through us. This may then inspire them to seek Jesus in their own lives. Jesus commissioned us to make disciples of all nations. Are we ready to be one?