ASCENSION SUNDAY: Honor High School Graduates
Acts 1: 1-11 + Psalm 47: 2-9 + Ephesians 1: 17-23 + Mark 16: 15-20
Holy Spirit Church: Sunday, May 16, 2021
The Scripture readings for this Solemnity of the Ascension speak about power,
either directly or indirectly. What do we think of when we hear that word, “power”?
Some think of the sheer physical power of athletes, like
Lebron James executing a tomahawk slam that no one can stop, or
Aaron Judge of the Yankees flicking his wrists and a baseball rockets 400 feet
out of the ballpark, or Adrian Peterson running right through several tacklers.
Others think of power by focusing on “Superhuman Power,” like of the Avengers:
Captain America taking on a whole horde of alien soldiers, or
the Hulk tackling an alien spaceship, or
Tony Stark as Iron Man manhandling a nuclear warhead,
directing it wherever he wants it to go.
Others think of the power of a nation, such as the disciples in today’s 1st reading
who ask if Jesus is going to restore the Kingdom to Israel in order to kick out
the Romans and retake their land and country.
However, the Scriptural meaning of Power in the readings for today refers
to the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Scriptures speak of power not in terms of sheer physical strength,
superhuman strength, or strength of a nation, but in a quite different way.
The power of Holy Spirit is a divine gift which energizes the disciples
of the Risen and Ascended Lord to do deeds of love & faith
previously thought impossible.
For the Lord Jesus ascends into heaven, to be seated in glory at the right hand
of the Father, so the Holy Spirit might descend upon his followers.
This gift of the Spirit, 1st given to us at Baptism, empowers us as it did
those first disciples to be witnesses to Risen Lord and to continue his saving work.
The Holy Spirit empowers us to love as Christ loves.
We are given a mission – to bring others to the Father as Jesus did—
a mission that is only possible by the gift of a Spirit of power.
In Mark’s Gospel, when the disciples are given the power of the Holy Spirit, they are given over Evil. We are given the same power so that nothing will stop us from being witnesses to the Risen and Ascended Lord Jesus.
In Mark’s Gospel, the disciples are given the Spirit of power in order to
drive out demons; pick up serpents; and drink any deadly thing.
All of these are meant to be taken symbolically, not literally.
For we are not called upon to be an “exorcist,” although we are empowered
to cast out the demons of hatred and the fear that gives birth to prejudice.
We are not called upon to go play with cobras or cottonmouths,
but to courageously confront those who would twist and turn the truth into deadly lies.
Jesus, by gifting us with the power of the Holy Spirit is not asking us to drink
Coca-Cola laced with arsenic.
Rather, when we drink in the deadly air of this culture—
a consumerist culture that places things before people,
a hedonist culture that places pleasure before sacrifice,
a me-first culture that encourages destructive selfish behavior—
we know that even when we drink in such poison,
even when we breathe in such pollution
it has no power over us because of the power of Spirit.
But we have to stay connected to our power source, to the Spirit
who continues to flow into our lives through a community of faith called “the Church.”
High School Graduates, stay connected to your power source, to the Eucharist,
so that you might have the energy to live out your faith,
to grow in love of God and others during college.
It is not easy to be a disciple of Jesus Christ,
to witness to Him by lives of sacrificial love.
It not easy to live lives marked by forgiveness and mercy—
but when we are “plugged in” to a community of faith,
in the power of the shared Spirit,
there is nothing to fear.
The power of evil wilts in the face of the power of the Holy Spirit.
We are also empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit to speak new languages.
This does not mean we can easily start speaking in a language which is foreign to us.
Rather by the power of the Spirit we can speak in a new way to God
and speak in a new way about God.
This “new” language is called the “Language of Prayer.”
Parents teach their children how to speak in this new language, by kneeling
at their child’s bedside night after night teaching them how to talk to God, or
at the dinner table by thanking God for the gift of food and drink,
or by bringing their children to Mass Sunday after Sunday.
You high school graduates learned this language while being part of the Church,
a language of Christ-like love and sacrifice,
of being connected to Christ like branches to a vine in order to produce abundant fruit.
You have learned the language of seeking the common good
and the language of self-giving service,
By the Sacrament of Confirmation, you were empowered by the Spirit
in a very special way to be witnesses to the Risen Lord, to love as he loves.
This new language that you have learned is very different from the language
used by those in positions of power,
who use language to talk about themselves and their accomplishments.
Instead, we use prayer language to talk about God and what God has accomplished.
It is this “new” language called prayer that puts us into proper relationship with God
and with each other.
It is by praying in union with others, by uniting ourselves to others in worship
by praising and adoring God,
that we are able to accomplish what before seemed impossible.
As we grow in our life of Prayer, we become more and more open
to the power of Holy Spirit, who is given to us to complete what we previously thought as Mission Impossible:
To love as Christ loves, so as to continue His saving Mission of bringing all people home
to our Heavenly Father.
Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi