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Bishop's Homily for the Ascension of the Lord

Jesus shows we can do the same things he did, if we do them in his name.

By Bishop Larry Silva
May 16, 2021

[St. Anthony Church, Kailua; St. Michael Church, Waialua (Confirmation & First Communion)]

When I am having a problem with my computer, I ask someone to show me how to solve it.  There is one kind of person who will sit at the computer, quickly tell me, “Open this; click this; move this here; and click here.”  The problem will be solved, but if it happens again, I would still not know how to solve it.  There is another kind of person who says, “You sit at the computer; open this; click this, move this here; and click here.”  It might take longer to fix the problem, but the next time it occurs, I am more likely to be able to fix it myself, because the person really taught me how to fix it by having me fix it with his guidance.

Now, Jesus came to fix many problems that all have their root in sin, which it turning away from God.  He came to turn us back toward God by having God first turn toward us, becoming one of us so he could show us the way.  He addressed the problem of demons by casting them out.  He spoke to many people about God’s love in a language they could understand.  He drank the deadly poison of hatred and was bitten many times by the serpent of disrespect, yet he overcame them all by rising from the dead.  He healed many people who were sick.

But when Jesus ascended into heaven, he told his disciples to do the very things he did in his name.  And perhaps he “disappeared” from our sight so that we would know that we now have to have the faith to solve these problems caused by sin ourselves.  If he had stayed on earth, we would constantly be saying, “Jesus, fix this.  Jesus, fix that.”  But by leaving, he shows confidence that we can do the same things he did, if we do them in his name.

But, like the early disciples, we sometimes look up into the sky, thinking that if we just pray harder, God will solve all our problems.  But those men who appeared to the disciples, tapping them on the shoulder as they gazed into the heavens, also tap us on the shoulder and say, “Do not just look up into the heavens.  Get to work!  Jesus has ascended, but he is still here with you, and now he wants you to be the ones to do his marvelous works in his name.”  In other words, Jesus puts us in the driver’s seat or at the controls, so that we can do the things he only began to do during this time on earth.

But Jesus does not just say, “You’re on your own.  You figure things out.”  He sends us his Holy Spirit to enlighten and guide us, to be the presence of God-with-us so that God can work through us and accomplish in us what we would never be able to do on our own.  And Jesus himself, though he ascended into heaven, is the living bread come down from heaven, returning to us to unite us to himself and to give us his own wisdom and power.  He does this in a special way in the sacrament of Confirmation, in which he pours out the Holy Spirit upon us; and in our Holy Communion, in which he enters physically into our bodies to bring us into communion with him and with each other.

So, with the power of the Holy Spirit and with Jesus himself nourishing and guiding us, we can cast out demons of hatred by showing our love; demons of depression by showing our care; demons of addiction by showing that we are all in good hands when we can put God first and admit that we cannot solve these problems on our own.  We drink deadly poisons when others criticize and mock us for following the ways of Jesus and his Church, but if we stay faithful to Jesus, none of these poisons will be ultimately deadly to us.  We pick up serpents when we try to solve problems like homelessness and poverty, and they slither every-which-way trying to escape our grasp.  But if we hold on with Jesus’s power, we can overcome them.  We can heal the sick by praying for them, visiting them, reaching out to their families and showing them our concern and love.  We can do all these things because Jesus empowers us to proclaim the good news to every creature.  Just as he ascended into heaven to put us at the controls, he does not abandon us, but comes to us in sacramental form so that in communion with him and with one another, he can continue his saving work through us.