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Ascension Homily by Fr. Cassian

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Homily given by Fr. Cassian OCSOI
7th Sunday of Easter
Preached May 24, 2020
Mystery upon mystery upon mystery. For seven weeks we have held in our hearts the mystery of the Resurrection, now extended into the mystery of the Ascension and drawn back to the mystery of the Incarnation.
The Easter Season Mass collects remind us of the gift of the Resurrection when Christ conquered death and unlocked the path to eternity.
Resurrection is a gift of life, reconciliation, renewal, and restoration of original dignity. Transcending the likeness of our earthly parentage, we are transformed in the image of the Father.
Our first reading reminds us of the Ascension when our original dignity, linked to the divinity of the Word, is carried beyond our merely human world – this Jesus Christ, recognized as one person in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.
Our modern cosmology, with its vast reaches of galaxies and dark matter, no longer supports the notion of rising from one worldly level to another. Luke, in his gospel, offers an intriguing alternative to moving upward.
He closes his gospel with a simple account of the Ascension. At Bethany, while blessing his disciples, Jesus withdraws, he steps aside. Similar to the dinner at Emmaus, he is present there as they have known him – and then he isn’t.
Both at Emmaus and Bethany, he seems to disappear from the company of the disciples, yet, in both cases, his presence persists – concentrated in the consecrated bread and, later, extended through the world. At Bethany, stepping aside, he abides. We ask in today’s collect to experience his abiding presence among us.
What the Father gives the Son, the Son gives his followers. “Just as you gave him authority over all people, so that your son may give eternal life to all you gave him.” Christ opens the path to eternity.
“You gave him authority over all people.” Here the New American Bible smudges the original text: “authority over all people” is more exactly rendered as “power over all flesh.” Certainly, the translation is correct in that flesh (sarx) can refer to all humanity – but the word flesh has many other layers which are not clearly perceived in people.
Readers often limit flesh to sexual desire and behavior. More fundamentally, flesh points to tender vulnerability, to our fragility, our susceptibility. Our flesh shivers in a cold gust of wind; our finger stings with a splinter; our hands burrow into soft fleece; our lungs wheeze with pathogens; our fleshy hearts are moved by pity, sadness, grief, good humor.
And the Word took on flesh, the flesh of habitual behaviors absorbed in childhood, remaining largely as responses. He took the flesh of our instincts, drives, and impulses. Nothing twisted or habitual is excluded – for nothing can displace the true ruler.
The Word took on our flesh, just this tender, corruptible, fragile vulnerability, and He redeemed our fallen nature, carrying our original innocence to the Father.
“Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.” The Word at the Ascension is not as he was before the world began, for the Word carries the flesh of his Incarnation to the Father, to live within the loving exchange of the Trinity. He carries our original human nature into that heaven, restoring our life, our innocence. Transfigured flesh is infused with glory.
Throughout John’s gospel, we are promised life, the life that restores our close relationship with the divine. Our way to divine life is through the flesh we share with the Risen and Ascended Word, who still remains with us, an abiding presence.
Mystery upon mystery upon mystery.
In this world of wonder, we eat his body and drink his blood; our fragile, aching flesh is ever more tightly knit into His body, resurrected and glorified, yet still enfleshed without confusion, without change, without division, without separation from divinity.
O brave, new world, to have such creatures in it!--
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