Eleven disciples went with Jesus to the mountain. There were eleven because Judas had hung himself and they had not yet elected Mathias to take his place. We celebrate that fact that Jesus ascended into heaven in the presence of His disciples and told them that He would return. People ask, “when”? When will Jesus come back? The Lord will return when all the work on the expressway is finished. Definitely not in our lifetime. There will always be more to do.
The early Church expected Jesus to return in their lifetime. They did not understand that they had a lot of work to do. The building of the Church started a long time ago, but there is still much work ahead. Notice that Jesus did not instruct the disciples to go and write the Bible, since there was no New Testament. He did not tell them to write laws. He told them “Go and build my Church.” “…make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus made St. Peter the first Pope by symbolically giving him the keys to the Kingdom. “If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.” All power in heaven and on earth belong to Christ and He has given His Church the same power to evangelize, to baptize and to forgive sins. Jesus knew that His Church would not survive without forgiveness. Just like in any relationship, forgiveness is vital. We hurt each other all the time. We are called to let go of the past and get on with life. Those who refuse will only hurt themselves. Jesus ascended to heaven because nothing weighed Him down. He had total trust in the Father. In order to follow Christ, we must free ourselves of the past. The burdens can be lifted. Forgiveness is intimately related to freedom. Tremendous freedom can be experienced when we surrender control to the One who can lift us up.
Truth is that sometimes we are too busy giving God instructions on how to run our life. The fallacy is ever popular—that we know more than God. Countless illusions surround us—from the gadgets we hold in our hands to the dollar amounts we have in the bank—all false senses of control. We can drop dead at any moment. No one can give us a guarantee on our bodily plumbing. The older we get, the more our vulnerability becomes obvious. Although centenarians are more abundant, nothing is forever. When all else fails, the Church will continue until Christ returns. He promised to remain always until the end of the age.
The Holy Father is Christ’s Vicar on earth. Our Bishop is Christ’s Vicar in our local Church of Brownsville. Each priest is an extension of the bishop to minister to the People of God. Through the priesthood the Eucharist becomes present. The gift of the Holy Eucharist is the greatest proof of the continued presence of Christ. The Eucharist is one of the healing Sacraments which forgives sins. One of the promises that Jesus made is that whoever eats His flesh and drinks His Blood will have eternal life. Meanwhile, we remember that we are a family—the Church. Since the family is the “domestic Church’, God’s first idea, the family is a prime target for attack from the evil one. However, our Protector guards the family. The Sacraments keep us focused. Parents do well to show their children what is important, not just tell them. Bring them every weekend, don’t just send them. The best way to teach is by example. The Eucharist sets the pace for our life. Imagine a person at the end facing death saying, “I’ve have tried to never miss Holy Mass and Holy Communion every weekend.
Each Holy Mass brings us closer to the day when we see Christ who has ascended to heaven but is also in the Church.