Ascension. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, commemorating the true historical event when Jesus of Nazareth, after dying on the cross and rising from the dead, ascended by His own power in His glorified human body into heaven, where He is now present, bodily, in eternity. The importance of the mystery of the Ascension is often overlooked or forgotten by Christians, but it must not be, since it is critical to our understanding of Christ and ourselves. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes:
665 Christ’s Ascension marks the definitive entrance of Jesus’ humanity into God’s heavenly domain, whence He will come again (cf. Acts 1:11); this humanity in the meantime hides Him from the eyes of men (cf. Col 3:3).
666 Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, precedes us into the Father’s glorious kingdom so that we, the members of His Body, may live in the hope of one day being with Him for ever.
667 Jesus Christ, having entered the sanctuary of heaven once and for all, intercedes constantly for us as the mediator who assures us of the permanent outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Christ’s Ascension into heaven also reminds us that the human body is not a useless thing to be thrown away, some machine our souls move around in until we go to heaven. The body is part of who we are, the part that reveals and communicates ourselves to others, and vice versa: we speak, hear and act in the body. In this we discover that the body is essentially about love: we communicate with others in order to enter and strengthen our love with and for each other. But at the same time, we discover that communicating hatred or disrespect through our bodies, or simply using our bodies or other person’s bodies as mere objects for amusement, runs dramatically contrary to love and to the dignity of the human person.
Moreover, the Bodily Ascension reveals to us that even in heaven Our Lord remains both man and God, united with us and His Father, and so uniting us to His Father. And He reminds us that the things we do through, with and in our bodies have eternal effects—either leading us to heaven with Him, or to hell without Him.
Novena to the Holy Spirit. 2000 years ago the Lord ascended into heaven on a Thursday, so that immediately after that first Ascension Thursday the apostles and the other disciples, with the Blessed Mother, began to pray for the coming of the Holy Spirit that Jesus had promised. For nine days they prayed, and on the tenth day, Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit descended on them in a dramatic display of divine power. Those nine days of prayer are the origin of the pious Catholic custom of praying of novenas (from “novem,” Latin for “nine”) for particular intentions.
The celebration of Ascension on Sunday complicates the idea of a “Pentecost Novena.” Even so, I invite you to join me in praying a slightly shortened novena to the Holy Spirit. There are many different forms of praying Pentecost novenas, so to keep it simple, I propose the following. First, form a particular intention for each day:
Sun.: That St. Raymond’s priests and parishioners may more actively exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit we have received.
Mon.: That the Holy Spirit may grant me an increase in His gift of wisdom.
Tues.: …His gift of understanding.
Wed.: …His gift of counsel.
Thurs.: …His gift of fortitude.
Fri.: …His gift of knowledge.
Sat.: …His gift of piety.
Sun.: …His gift of reverence, or fear of the Lord.
And then, in union with the Blessed Mother say this prayer each day:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth. Let us pray. O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit that we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations. Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.
Graduating High School Seniors. Over the next few weeks many of our young men and women will be graduating from high school. It is an important milestone and achievement in their lives, and we congratulate them. But as the ceremony for graduation usually indicates, it is not merely an ending, but a “commencement”—a new beginning of a new stage of life. So, as your spiritual father, may I pass on some important advice?
“What will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life?” (Matthew 16:26).
“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Cor. 13:11).
“So Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you; For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (John 6: 53-55).
“And He said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Matthew 22: 37-40)
“Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate.” (Matthew 19: 4-6).
“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18: 29-30).
“One came up to him, saying, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?’ And he said to him, ‘If you would enter life, keep the commandments.’ He said to him, ‘Which?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother…” (Matthew 19: 16-19).
“With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:27)
And finally: “…He said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’” (John 19: 26-27).
Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles