Archbishop Dr Bernard Moras of Bengaluru Archdiocese called upon a large congregation of people to follow the example of Jesus to ascend to heaven one day for eternity. ‘This thought that we too will ascend one day should come to us all.’ He was speaking as chief celebrant at a concelebrated Mass to celebrate the Feast of Ascension at Ascension Church in Bengaluru on Sunday.
It is believed that during the 40 days following his resurrection (40 days after Easter), Jesus appeared in several places, to many of his disciples and told them that He would always be with them and promised them the gift of the Holy Spirit to preach the good news. After saying this, Jesus was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. The Feast of Ascension is one of the important Christian festivals celebrated in all over the world. This day marks the last appearance of Lord Jesus Christ to his followers after His resurrection at Easter.
The Feast of Ascension offers comfort, it is an occasion of joy and happiness, it invites all to give glory and offer thanksgiving to God. Archbishop expressed concern about some who care awhit about church life, some drift away from church and some others more interested in worldly life (entertainment of all sorts) than in the state of their souls.
The occasion is Christ’s ascension to his heavenly throne.“Jesus, the Son of God, defeated the curse of sin with a perfect life, but more than that, died for our sins;made available to us sacramentally the very body and blood which now sits at God’s right hand, so that, “For where the head is, there as well, I know His members are to dwell.”
The apostles who bore witness to actual and physical life of Jesus were instructed to preach the good news to all which contributes to strengthen our faith.
Thus it was necessary for the apostles to witness the fullness of events defining the Christian faith, because they needed to bear witness to what following Jesus truly meant, in a physicalsense.
Following Jesus means to follow him in his birth, being born of water and blood; follow him through death; follow him through resurrection; and follow him sitting at God’s right hand. The apostles witnessed and proclaimed what they had seen, inviting us to share that same life path.
Even as Christ—made perfect (Hebrews 5: 9) through his baptism into death—ascends to sit at God’s right hand amidst the angels, so also we are invited to follow the same. Christ’s sitting at God’s right hand is the foundation for the gift of the Holy Spirit, who gives us the gift of forgiveness. While the cross effected atonement and the resurrection sealed the deal, Christ’s ascension completed our full reconciliation with the Father.
Christ’s sitting at God’s right hand is the foundation for a Christian’s patterns of thought. As St. Paul writes, “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” Our treasure is in heaven, and our thoughts are called upward.
As Jesus said to his disciples the day before his death, “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”
That’s what ascension means: our Lord going to prepare a place for us. It might be time for us all to return to the teachings of Jesus and aim at Ascension.
Archbishop also exhorted all present to consider acts of mercy and charity following this year declared by Pope Francis as ‘Year of Mercy.’
Preaching a homily in English, Fr. Stephen Alathara, Deputy Secretary General, Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) said, according to the accounts in the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus appeared to many of his disciples during the forty days after his resurrection. On the fortieth day, he came again to the Apostles and led them out to the Mount of Olives where he instructed them to wait in Jerusalem for the promise of the Holy Spirit. Then, as they were watching, he ascended into clouds; as they continued to watch, two angels appeared and declared to them that, just as he ascended, Jesus would return in glory.
Jesus had given clear instruction to his disciples to preach the good news which is the joy of resurrection. Ascension is the culmination of his earthly ministry and it is a supernatural mystery. By Ascension Jesus entered a divine domain.Ascension happened near to the Mount Olive which was to meet God’s plan. FrAlathara stressed the message of prayer and the importance of faith in Jesus. The ascended Jesus was still with the disciples to guide and strengthen them. A Christian’s life is always joyous. We never go away from God. He also urged the people to deepen the faith and relationship with God. He called upon the large crowd to be strong in the relationship with the Lord and to lead a heaven-oriented life.
To drive home the message of faith and good relation with Jesus, he narrated an incident from his tenure as a parish priest. During a visit to a family he advised the parents to send their daughter for catechism classes. But the mother told him her daughter was proficient in catechism and various other religious studies and matters. Later, he came to know her daughter eloped to live with a man of 42 years of age. The young girl had knowledge but had no strong faith, he pointed out.
The meaning of the Ascension of Christ, the event that culminated the earthly life of Jesus was the central theme of Pope Francis' homily during his general audience at the Vatican.
“In the Creed,” noted the pontiff, “we confess our faith in Christ who 'ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father'. … What does this mean for our lives? While he 'ascends' to [Jerusalem], where his 'exodus' from this life will take place, Jesus already sees the goal, Heaven, but he knows well that the path that will take him back to the Father's glory passes through the Cross, through obedience to the divine plan of love for humanity. … We also must be clear, in our Christian lives, that entering into God's glory demands daily fidelity to his will, even when it requires sacrifice, when it sometimes requires us to change our plans.”
The pontiff referred to the account of the Ascension in the Gospel according to St. Luke. “Jesus led his disciples 'as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven'. .. This is the first important point: Jesus is the only and eternal Priest who, by his passion, has traversed death and the grave and is risen and ascended into Heaven. He is with God the Father, where he always intercedes in our favour. As St. John affirms in his First Letter: He is our Advocate.”
“Jesus' Ascension into Heaven thus allows us to know this reality that is so consoling on our journey: in Christ, true God and true man, our humanity has been brought to God. He has opened the way. He is like the leader of a mountain climbing party that is roped together. He has reached the summit and pulls us to himself, leading us to God. If we entrust our lives to him, if we let ourselves be guided by him, we are certain of being in safe hands.”
FrSahaya John who also preached a homily in Tamil stressed the meaning of Ascension in today’s life. He said Jesus defends us from the devil’s snares, defends us from sin, forgives us, sends his blessings and he is always merciful to us. Ascension is an invitation to witness to the Gospel in our everyday lives and to contemplate on Jesus’ Lordship. By Ascension, Jesus lives among us in a new way. He is close to each one of us. Among other things, FrSahayan said Ascension should bring God’s love among us and to the world in and through each one’s daily lives of struggles, problems and difficulties.
Earlier Fr Joseph Abraham while welcoming the Archbishop and con-celebrants invoked the presence of the Holy Spirit. He also later invited the parish council members and finance committee members to take oath with lighted candles before receiving the blessings from Archbishop Moras. He intoned a prayer for them.
The feast at Ascension Church concluded with an hour-long prayer of healing, a car procession and a benediction.
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