Today: The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. This feast is normally celebrated as a Holy Day of Obligation on Thursday (“Ascension Thursday,” 40 days after Easter (inclusive)), but because many Catholics are unable to attend Mass in the middle of the week our Bishop, and the Bishops of the neighboring Dioceses, thought it best to move it to Sunday so that all Catholics would be more able to celebrate this very important feast.
So why is this feast so important? Essentially it celebrates the fact that Jesus ascended, body and soul, into heaven, and now dwells in heaven as a bodily person. This reminds us that God the Son came into the world “like us in all things but sin”–of the reality of His bodily incarnation, birth, death and resurrection–and redeemed us entirely, body and soul. Moreover, it is a pledge to us of the resurrection of our bodies on the last day, and the transformation of the physical world into a glorious, “new heavens and a new earth.”
This in turn leads us to remember the dignity of the human body: your body is part of who you are, it is “you” as much as your soul is “you.” Your body is you speaking and communicating yourself to other bodily persons. As such, the body itself has meaning and speaks to others of this meaning. This is an important truth to keep in mind today, as many try to degrade the body and treat it as an accidental part of who we are—i.e., it tells us no more about who we are than, say, the clothes we wear or the cars we drive, which we can change or discard on a whim. This has become an essential part of the creed of sexual libertarianism—the body and bodily acts mean nothing but what you want them to mean, and so you can use or abuse your body and other people’s bodies any way you like: sex can mean love and commitment, or it can mean fun, domination, or degradation—whatever. This has become a key argument for those who advocate and promote all sorts of perversions, including homosexuality, “transgenderism” and “transsexualism.”
But that is contrary to common sense, the natural law (the way things clearly are designed to be) and divine revelation. And it is totally opposed to the dignity of the human body, which is so beautifully revealed to us in the mystery of the Ascension of the Lord: that the body communicates who we are and is so wonderful—so meaningful—that it is created to live in glory forever in heaven.
First Holy Communion. Yesterday the parish celebrated the First Holy Communion of 80 of our children. What a wonderful day for them and for all of us. I’m sure you all remember your First Communion—I can remember it like it was yesterday. Watching these children receive so reverently and with so much joy and faith should be an example to us all: may we hold fast, with childlike faith, to the truth that the God who took to Himself a human body still comes to us and speaks to us in that very same Body in the Eucharist. As Jesus said: “unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Congratulations to our First Communicants, and may the Lord Jesus always keep their faith in and love for the Eucharist as strong and alive as it is today.
Mother’s Day. I haven’t forgotten you Moms! I’m sure you haven’t minded me placing the Lord’s feast first, or our children’s great day before you in this column—I’m “sure” because that’s how Moms are! Always placing others first—especially the Lord and children. And that’s why we love Moms, and motherhood, so much, and truly revere them. As I spoke above of the meaning and dignity of the body, motherhood is yet another expression of this meaning. What a miraculous gift and blessing—to mothers, husbands, children and to all society—is the motherly love expressed so tenderly and yet powerfully through a mother’s bodily acts: carrying a baby in her womb for 9 months, the sacrificial pangs of childbirth, nursing her baby at her breast, holding her child in her arms, kissing the scraped knee, the smile that makes everything better, or the tears of compassion or pride. Thank the Good Lord for the gift of mothers! On this special day, and every day, may the Lord shower them with graces, and may we show them the love that they deserve. And let us pray for those who have gone on before us into death: that the Lord may forgive them for their imperfections, and reward them for their great love.
Mary’s Month and the May Crowning. So many things to celebrate today! As we remember the Ascension of Our Lord in His Body, and the reception of that same Body by our children in Communion, let us also remember the Mother who gave Him that Body—His Blessed Mother, Mary. By ancient custom, the Church dedicates the month of May to renewing our devotion to and love for our Blessed Mother. So to remind us of this, and to share and encourage this devotion with our children, this afternoon (Sunday May 12), immediately after the 12:15 Mass, we will celebrate the “May Crowning”—the symbolic crowning of the statue of Our Lady as Queen of Heaven and Earth, and Queen of our hearts. Let this month be a time of growing closer to Our Lady, especially through daily prayer to her— particularly the daily Rosary.
Bad News. I hate to end this column on a down beat, but I hear that a new and big abortion clinic is planning to open in Fairfax City near Paul VI High School. As St. Peter reminds us: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” We must do whatever we can to fight this evil from coming to fruition. Pray, and see the “YOUR Help is urgently needed” paragraph on the next page for other actions to take.
Good News: Pentecost. So I won’t close on a down beat, but with a reminder that next week is Pentecost, recalling the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles, Mary and the first disciples. Prepare yourself for this great feast—the “Birthday of the Church”—open your heart to the gifts and inspirations of the Holy Spirit.
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles