Ascension Day

The feast of the Ascension is about letting go and living a new life as well.

 With the departure of a friend to another country we have al experienced the strange new sensation of going back to ordinary tasks and routine in their absence. There is a lingering sadness at their departure and a ‘picking up of the pieces’ as we re-arrange our house of guest room to the way things were. With Jesus however there is a newness, things are not the same as before. We are to live a new life with new ways of doing things and with a new joy.

Jesus takes the disciples to the outskirts, to the edge, to the periphery if the city – symbolic – to be taken aside, away from the crowd, to experience silence, quiet and to be blessed. We too must continually draw apart from the bustle and the noise to the periphery of life, even for a short while, to once more  hear the reassuring words of Jesus and to be strengthened and renewed for our mission in life.

We cannot have our heads stuck in a cloud. We have work to do. Christ has ascended into heaven and where He has gone we hope to follow, where our loved ones, please God, await us. We are not to be so heavenly minded so as to be of no earthly use. Recently Pope Francis was asked what do think of priests wearing cassocks or soutanes –‘ I don’t mind so long as they have their sleeves rolled up!’

He will judge us in the measure that we have loved and have shown compassion.


Us .We are witnesses to His death and resurrection.

We are witnesses to this - to the repentance for the forgiveness of sins – the joy of being forgiven is the greatest joy of all.

There is a sense of a handing over of a special task – an office of responsibility, an inheritance – something to be handed on –‘something I want you to have’.

Witnesses when and where?

At every opportunity at home, in the family circle, in the workplace and above all our social responsibility in society. God is to be found in the pots and pans as well.


To speak the truth in charity – a difficult and important and delicate task – to those who need to hear the truth of change. Anyone who has lived or worked alongside an addict knows the difficulty in speaking of the need for change, and the criticism that ensues. Having the duty and responsibility to tell the truth hurts, but the truth sets us and others free. As Catholics in particular we are called to speak up for the most vulnerable members of society, the poor, the disadvantaged and those whose lives are threatened – especially the defenceless unborn.

It is then that we realise that there is a cost. To be a witness for the truth is to be cross-examined, to be public, to be scrutinised, and observed, to be open to the possibility of contradiction and ridicule. In fact nearly every one of the disciples who witnessed Jesus’ ascension witnessed to the point of death. The Greek word for witness is MARTYR. We must be credible witnesses. In the year of faith we must endeavour to learn more about our faith in the Year of Faith. The book YOUCAT is a great resource for just that.
 The last command of Jesus is related to the lives we are called to lead at the final dismissal at every Mass - Go the Mass is ended – glorifying the Lord by your life.


Sixth Sunday of Easter

When two friends or relatives unavoidably separate for what they know will be a considerable length of time, they make a commitment to stay in touch somehow. There are fewer excuses not to do so in the modern world - cards and letters have given way to faster and immediate means of communication such as Facebook and besides texts and emails, we have Skype and the like. While often ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ somehow over the passage of time, both people's lives change as newer lives and work commitments take shape, and newer friends are made. The same regularity and enthusiasm  for contact isn’t there for some reason. Eventually birthdays and Christmas are the only reminders of the friendship. How are we to keep the spirit of friendship alive?

But added to that, the permanent separation of death as I discussed last week brings even more challenges to keep the memories alive. To somehow remember the one loved and lost but yet to let go and move on as well is a delicate challenge. Not to dwell in the past but to see the preciousness of life at all, of living life to the full, the fullness of life that the parted one would want for us, not squandering time or talents, but being the best version of myself that they would want me to be and to keep the spirit of love for them alive.

This is what Jesus asks of us in the Easter season.

 There are as it were, two departures of Jesus, His death on Good Friday, and his ascension into heaven which we re-commemorate next week.

We are in the middle of these partings.

And if we can imagine Jesus ‘packing to go’ as anyone close to us leaving us to go on a long journey, there are the last minute jobs, the parting instructions and the personal words of re-assurance that we will see each other again. There are also parting gifts. Today Jesus’ last words of advice and comfort are ‘do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.’ And ‘peace I bequeath to you, my own peace I give you, a peace the world cannot give.’

External (worldly) things – not wrong in themselves – can and do give temporary, but not lasting, peace. And only Jesus gives us peace we all seek.

Riches make you comfortable, but not happy. There is no geographical cure for worry.

The amazing thing about peace is that it is somehow gently infectious. We see people calm and collected in a crisis, people unperturbed at a delay in traffic or in an airport or shopping queue, a patient parent with a stroppy child, a person – maybe a saintly person – who radiates joy and peace and kindness. We see a parent with a special needs child, and somehow our worry (and our lack of patience) pales into significance. They have inner peace. And we want that for ourselves! Not that their lives are cross-free, but they have some ‘secret’ of happiness and contentment amidst the trials of life. They do not seek, or do not need to seek, peace through diversion into addiction or compulsive behaviour.

The Spirit that Jesus will give is the Spirit of peace. Jesus first words to His disciples at his resurrection were ‘peace be with you’ as He breathed the Spirit on them.  The peace He gives them then is tied up with the forgiveness of sins. And that is a step all too few make – to seek the peace that a guilt-free conscience can bring in the sacrament of Reconciliation (confession).

The Spirit gives us peace through the sacraments that we receive of Baptism and Confirmation and the Eucharist – and we keep the spirit alive in our hearts also in the practice of fidelity to daily prayer.  

We must ask ourselves therefore what kind of spiritual lives we lead. The acid test is the level of worry and anxiety we experience and what means we turn to in order to cope in the long term. The modern world offers us counselling and meditation techniques instead of what God through His Church, i.e., the sacraments and prayer, can offer for free! A peace the world cannot give - that is my gift to you. The Spirit of peace – Christ’s parting gift - keeps our relationship with Christ alive in our hearts. As we prepare to say farewell at His Ascension we thank Him for the gift of the Spirit in our hearts.

Peace be with you!