(This is from memory; I had no text or notes.)
Father Tom has made the point that we like it when we come to Mass and get something.
People like getting palms on Palm Sunday--
so much so that folks who can't make it that Sunday will call later to see if we have any left.
Ash Wednesday is not a holy day of obligation, yet it's always crowded;
and part of the reason is that getting ashes is very meaningful.
Many people who aren't Catholic will still come to get ashes.
If we think about the various feasts we celebrate, what do we get?
On Christmas, we get a baby: God is born a human being--
and we make that real to us with the creche.
On Easter, Jesus rises from the dead--we get him back as it were.
Good Friday isn't a happy day, but what we get is our savior dying for us. Very powerful.
Pentecost: we get the Holy Spirit.
So, in that light, what do we get on Ascension?
Well, here are my thoughts on this:
First, we get to see where we're headed and what we hope for.
What if our Lord had chosen not to rise from the dead and come back and show himself to us?
He might have said, I'm going to die, but don't worry,
I'll go back to heaven and prepare a place for you.
And that would have been what we hoped for.
But instead, he came back from the dead,
showed his hands and his side, he ate and drank with them, so they knew.
You will rise again, as well, he said.
Then he ascended to heaven--and we knew that where he went, we can follow,
if we keep following the Lord.
We know where we're headed. That's the first thing we get.
The second is the Holy Spirit. Yes, I know, we celebrate that next week on Pentecost;
but it's also part of this feast. Jesus said, unless I go, you can't receive the Holy Spirit.
You may notice a new face on the altar:
that's Andrew Hess, one of the seminarians who will be with us this summer.
Andrew will be over by the ramp door after Mass, so you can say hello.
He and I drove down yesterday to the ordination of Father Matt Robben-
-you may recall Matt was here several summers as well.
While we drove down, we talked about this:
why did our Lord say we couldn't receive the Holy Spirit unless he left?
I told Andrew he had to solve this problem; he didn't do it!
It's a difficult question; but let me suggest this.
While Jesus was here, we of course were focused on him;
and it was time to move into a new experience of God.
We're recognizing our graduates this morning.
And I bet you had this experience in school:
you start the year, studying a subject--say, geography or calculus--
and you groan, oh this is terrible, I'll never get the hang of this!
Well, by the end of the year, you feel better about it; and that's when they say,
OK, now we start all over with history or trigonometry!
Oh no! I'm just getting good at this stuff, I want to stick with this!
But you can't; you have to move on to something else.
That's what our Lord wanted for the Apostles.
The Holy Spirit was going to lead them to something very new--
the challenge of sharing the Faith through the world.
And that's the third thing we "get" from the Ascension: we get our mission.
The Holy Spirit is given to us so that we go in Christ's name to share our Faith.
Look around: does the world seem a paradise?
Is there perfect justice and peace?
Does everyone know the Lord? No! So there's still a lot of work to do.
We may find that it's hard to be a Christian. That's correct!
In these strange times...who would have thought
we would have our government making it so hard for us?
Recall the warning from the Archbishop of Chicago,
that if the president's mandate on contraceptives isn't overturned, in 18 months--
18 months from now!--all the Catholic hospitals in Chicago will be gone!
Yes, these are difficult times in which to be a Christian, whether it's responding to this challenge,
or standing up for what marriage is, or [I cannot recall the other examples I gave here].
Aren't you glad you know where you're headed?
But notice what the Lord said: we would have power to bear witness.
Yes, we do speak in new languages; the Gospel is proclaimed in every language;
and if someone invents a new language, we'll learn it and share Christ through that language too.
Yes, God does heal people--I have anointed people who were supposed to die--and they did not die. The Holy Spirit gives us the power and the courage to carry out this task.
What did our Lord say?
Everyone who believes and is baptized will be saved; those who do not believe will be lost.
We have a lot of work to do--let's get going!