Sunday, May 24, 2009

Fr. Matthias Neuman's Homily for Ascension

We celebrate today the feast of the Ascension of Christ. Many liturgical theologians would call the Ascension one of the most underrated feasts in the Church̢۪s Liturgical Year. Because its implications are so little understood. For most people Ascension is just a necessary step to get Jesus from this world to the next, so he can send the Spirit at Pentecost. Once Jesus is in heaven it's over. The meaning of Ascension is thus completes a step on the way. Far from it! With the human bodiliness and consciousness of Jesus now a part of the Divine Mystery, the Ascension means that heaven and earth are irreversibly intertwined. God's victory has already happened and it's for all eternity. Our human lives are now entwined with the mysteries of God's grace and forgiveness. That's what the proclamation of the Gospel is all about. And it needs to be told to the whole world.

If you look at the Appearance accounts in the four gospels in a analytic fashion, that is, to compare their structures, you will see that at the center of each narrative is an appearance to the eleven disciples gathered together. Scripture scholars like to call this the "constitutive appearance" because it's the one that pulls everything else together. In that constitutive appearance Jesus commissions the disciples to go and proclaim the message to the whole world. (Mk 16:14-15; Mt 28:16-20; Lk 24:36-48; Jn 20:19-23) It is probably clearest in Matthew's gospel, but it's in the other three as well, just as you noticed its powerful presence at the center of today's gospel passage from Mark.

Scripture scholars are all pretty much in agreement that these four Resurrection appearance narratives are very late in the New Testament literary tradition. Rather than give an exact account of how things happened, they are much more concerned to bear witness what emerged as the major beliefs in that early Christian community. And one of the earliest beliefs was the necessity to go out and proclaim to the whole world this message that Jesus has been raised by God and this is for our salvation.

It's likely impossible to figure out where this belief in "proclamation to the world" came from. It didn't come from their Jewish background. In fact, there wasn't any religion of the time that had any such similar belief. The only solution to be found is that the belief in a "proclamation to the whole world" came in the very same moment that they believed that Jesus had been raised by God. If God has done this great thing, then it must be told to everyone.

I said last week that proclaiming the gospel is a second way out of suspicion. If the Paschal Mystery warns us to be suspicious of our ordinary human ways of thinking and deciding, then when the gospel is proclaimed we are always taking a step in the right direction. Why? Because proclaiming the gospel takes us out of ourselves, out of our own concerns, out of trying to hold on to what we've got. Whenever a person, or a monastery, or a parish is first and foremost concerned with keeping what it's got, then it's in serious religious trouble. The Ascension is about proclaiming to the world that our human lives are intertwined with the mysteries of God's grace, forgiveness and love. That's more than just proclaiming that "Jesus saves." It includes the assertion that "God is" and also the intrinsic value and beauty of human life. The proclamation of the gospel includes all of those beliefs. Let's share those beliefs with the many people we meet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hey, its Samantha A. I was on youtube today listening to party like a catholic and i ran across another song its called Holy Life. It is writen by the same 3 boys. I just thought i would let you know. Have a great summer and be safe. Can't wait to see you =)