Msgr. Joseph A. Pellegrino
Please note: the Diocese of St. Petersburg and the Florida Catholic Conference, as well as many of the United States Archdioceses and Dioceses have moved the celebration of the Ascension from Thursday to what was previously the day for the 7th Sunday of Easter.
Solemnity of the Ascension: Men of Galilee...Kick Open that Door!
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord into heaven. Perhaps the Ascension gets overlooked a bit, sandwiched as it is between the great solemnities of Easter and Pentecost. St. Luke obviously recognized the importance of the Ascension. He presents it in each of the books of the Bible he wrote, the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.
In Acts two men dressed in white tell the apostles to stop gazing into the sky and know that Jesus will return. Who were these two men? Angels, perhaps. Or perhaps they were the two witnesses of Revelations 11 who proclaim God's will to the earth. Maybe they were the same two men that the disciples of the Lord saw with Jesus on the mountain of the Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah. They met to discuss God's plan for the defeat of evil to be begun by the Lord with His passion, death and resurrection.
We really don't know exactly who the two men were, but we do know this, their presence shows that the message of the Ascension is important, very important. And what is that message? The message was that the disciples will be empowered with the Holy Spirit so they can be witnesses of the Lord to the ends of the earth.
The number of disciples would not be limited to the eleven who remained faithful to Christ. All who believe in Him would be called to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to the world. That includes us. We need to get into the action. Christians have to be people of action. We were not given the Holy Spirit for our own well being. We were given the Spirit to use the Power of God to bring others to Christ.
We are given the Spirit to do battle for the Kingdom. There is a war going on. It is the war against evil. We need to be engaged. We need to do battle every day. We can't, as the kids say, zone out, looking at the sky, waiting for the Lord to come back and do something. We need to fight the darkness that terrorizes the world. We need to be people of the light, the Light of Christ.
Three years ago people in a neighborhood in Cleveland heard a girl screaming. They batted the door down and three girls ran out, escaping ten years of the most horrendous abuse possible. The neighbors who batted down that door didn't sit back and let others do something about the screaming woman inside the house. They got into action and freed three girls. Take their response to a deeper level. The three girls represent all innocents who are in the grasp of evil. People are screaming for others to free them from evil. Some of these people are being physically assaulted by others, some are being destroyed by society, some are being abused by the addictions that have taken over their lives. All are crying out for people to free them from the grasp of evil. All are crying out to us to pound in the door of their slavery and lead them into the freedom that only the Lord can give.
There are people who are so accustomed to evil that they no longer see it for what it is. Think of Elizabeth Smart's ordeal. She was the 14 year old who was abducted and terrorized for nine months in Utah. She had become so accustomed to the horrendous things that were happening to her that she was convinced that she had to accept this new, terrible life. She had lost any sense of her own self worth. It was only months after being found that she realized what evil had done to her. She needed good people to help her recognize her dignity as a daughter of God. Now she travels the country as an advocate for victims that suffer as she suffered.
There are many people who are so caught up with the lies of the world that they lost their recognition of what evil is doing to them. Many people are so caught up in the sex culture, the drug culture, the alcohol culture that they don't recognize how evil is destroying them. They need us to point them to a better way of life. They need us to kick in the doors of their bondage and lead them to the freedom that allows them to be who God created them to be.
Some people are caught up in the basic paganism of the world of evil. Pagans glory in the material. They sacrifice their dignity to their possessions. They seek meaning for life in their stuff. We Christians have received the mandate to bring Christ to the pagans, to live and preach the Gospel of True Love, sacrificial Love, the Love of Jesus Christ. To do this we have to be people who live for God, not for our own possessions. The world needs our witness to the Lord.
So many people are held bound by philosophies that glorify the self. They believe that they have inner power to conquer the world. This is diabolical. At the heart of all this seeking of auras is the rejection of God. This is very subtle, but, then again, the devil wins more souls through pride then through displays of force. He convinces people that they don't need God. This worked in the Garden of Eden and it is working now in counseling services and self-help philosophies that tell people to harness their own life forces. This is new age Buddhism. It is pagan. It is the way of the devil. Many people are caught up in this. They need us Christians to lead them out of the grasp of this evil self dependency, this pride of self, into humility, into the arms of the Merciful God, the only one who can give them peace.
"Stop looking up at the sky," the two witnesses call out to us. Jesus has ascended into heaven so we can receive the Spirit. Now, we need to fight for the Kingdom of God. We need to fight against the darkness. We need to kick open the door that binds others in slavery. We need to proclaim Jesus Christ with our lives.