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Bishop's Homily for the Ascension of the Lord

May 12, 2024

[St. Philomena Church, Honolulu (Confirmation & First Communion); Sacred Heart Church, Honolulu (Confirmation & First Communion)]

The worse thing that could happen as we think about the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, which we celebrate in a special way today, is that we would think that he is gone from the earth.  Yes, we are very much like the apostles who were staring up into the sky, trying to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus as he disappeared beyond their sight.  We talk about what Jesus did when he was here on earth and what Jesus taught way back then.  We try to conjure up a distant memory of Jesus, preserved for us in the Bible, so that we can learn from this person who lived long ago, far away, and once upon a time.

But, now as then, angels come to tap us on the shoulder and remind us, “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”  And that is why we gather here every Sunday of the year – and even more often, if possible -- to be reminded that Jesus, who is in heaven, is the living Bread come down from heaven.  Yes, he is in heaven, and it is important that we remember that heaven is where we all are destined to be, if God’s will be done, otherwise life on this earth can be without hope.  But even while we are here, we experience the real presence of Jesus in many ways.

On the day of his resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples and breathed on them the Holy Spirit.  That same Jesus is here today to anoint you with the same Holy Spirit.  When you are anointed with the Sacred Chrism, it is like Jesus kissing you on the forehead, sharing with you the greatest gift of the love he and God the Father share with each other, the gift of the Holy Spirit.  That Holy Spirit will be in you and with you forever, so that you can do amazing things in the name of Jesus, just as Jesus promised.  When you are aware of this wonderful gift, you will be more loving and caring.  You will notice when people are suffering and reach out to them.  You will be filled with gratitude for all who pour out their love upon you, such as we all are today as we honor our mothers and thank God for them.

But it gets even better!  The same Jesus who ascended into heaven and is still there, is the living bread come down from heaven, and he comes down here every time we celebrate the Mass.  He not only comes down to the altar to be truly present to us here and now, but he enters into us in an intimate and holy communion with us.  And because he is in us physically, he makes us one with himself, so that, even though we still live on this earth, we can experience heaven, too.  We can be filled with joy whenever we serve others in the name of Jesus, and we can accomplish incredible things, not by our own power, but by his.

Long ago, Jesus sent his disciples to go into the whole world and tell the good news of his love.  And that is exactly what he does today.  Of course, we all need to grow in this love, and none of us is perfect, but Jesus knows that sometimes the best way to learn is to know that you have to teach others.  The more we reach out to tell others about Jesus, the closer we will come to Jesus ourselves.  Maybe your friends, classmates, or teammates do not know of the love of Jesus, and you are sent to show them!  Your parents have brought you here to receive these wonderful sacraments, and we hope they will continue to encourage you to be faithful in your witness to Jesus.  But sometimes they may need you to remind them that Jesus loves them so much he wants to enter into them every Sunday at Mass.  Isn’t it amazing that Jesus, who has ascended into the glory of heaven, longs to be in each one of us?  This is how much he loves us.

So, yes, today we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus into heaven, where he has gone to prepare a place for us.  But we still are tapped on the shoulder to look back down to earth, and to know that Jesus is always with us here and now!