Homily for June 1, 2014: Ascension of the Lord: Fr. Scott Bullock

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

June 1, 2014


Reading 1:  Acts 1:1-11

Responsorial Psalm:  Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

R. (6) God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.

Reading II: Eph 1:17-23

Gospel: Mt 28:16-20

Click here to LISTEN to this week's homily.



One day while a father was reading in the living room, his two sons decided that they could play basketball in the same room without breaking anything. When one took a shot that redesigned a glass table  into many pieces, their mother came in the room with a stick and said, "So help me, I'll bust you in half." Without lifting his head from his book, the father said, "Why would you want twice as many?" 

Of course, being a parent is no easy job—but the stakes are enormously high!  On this day when the Church remembers Jesus ascending on high, may I suggest that this feast day helps us see just how high are the stakes of parenthood—and other vocations as well.

In the reading from the Acts of the Apostles, “two men dressed in white,” angels, say “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” Acts 1:11 How are we to understand this great event of Jesus’ Ascension? Of what importance is it to you and me?  Of course, you can guess that I will suggest that it is of the greatest importance—in fact, there is nothing more important.

Allow me to let my brother Bob, a great parent indeed, to begin an explanation.  Of course, I’ll have the last word! Some time ago, my heroic brother chose to be a chaperone for my niece Brianna and the other twelve students in their 8th grade graduation trip to Chicago. Here’s the moment when I discovered the Ascension going on, even now: After taking the energetic kids out for dinner, we took them down to Navy Pier for some recreation.   I could already see that my niece Brianna was getting a bit tired of the whole thing—but off we went. Once at the pier, some of the students saw the huge Ferris Wheel and made a beeline for it.   Knowing my brother, I suspected that his adventuresome spirit would enjoy a spin on it too! However, by the time we got there, I could see that Brianna was about at her end and would have none of it.  She wanted to go to bed. Bob looked at me and said, “I’ll stay here with Brianna—you go ahead with the kids up in the Ferris Wheel.” So, the least enthusiastic of the Bullock brothers got in line with the 8th graders, while the most loving of the Bullock brothers stayed with his daughter on terra firma and watched.

As I ascended to the heavens in the 150 ft. high Ferris Wheel, it was actually my brother who soared higher—in his sacrificial act of love for his daughter, when he lifted his daughter’s spirits by staying with her and discovered something more lasting than a spin in a Ferris Wheel, a love of his daughter that is the way we experience heaven already on earth.  He chose this love by denying himself for the sake of his daughter—the very definition of love. What is love, Jesus taught us, is not some pleasant feeling, and not getting something. Instead, love IS always a giving—giving way of my needs and giving care to another. Though Bob could have complained, “we’ve come all the way to Chicago and now we can’t enjoy the sights,” he did not. In this, both he and his daughter ascended in love to a certain experience of heaven already on earth.

Friends, this is what the Ascension is all about—that, even now, we have the power to help each other ascend to God through acts of love: Parents, laying down their lives for their children by loving sacrifices for them. Children, laying down your lives for your parents by loving respect of your them. Priests, laying down our lives for our parishioners by loving service of them. Religious and other single folks, likewise laying down their lives for others through loving service of them. In this laying down of our lives, we and others ascend in love to God.

But, in order to love, we must first be loved. To see how this is happening, we go to another guide, Pope St. Leo the Great, who said in a homily on this feast day of the Ascension: “Our present rejoicing is on account of his ascension into heaven.  With all due solemnity we are commemorating that day on which our poor human nature was carried up, in Christ, above all the hosts of heaven . . . [and now] our Redeemer’s visible presence has passed into the sacraments.” (Sermo 2 de Ascensione 1-4) The moment when we come to the altar and receive the body of the Lord is an “ascension moment.”  There, the Lord truly descends and fills us with his grace, with his love, that we might ascend anew to him, who reigns in heaven. Then, filled with the life of God, let us go and repeat the Ascension we have received:  by laying down this divine life given to us in service of others, literally lifting their spirits so that they may ascend with us to our God.

This is our mission—our daily Christian call—to descend in humility to the needs of others in our lives, and in bearing Christ’s love to them, doing nothing less than lifting them to God—to reproduce again and again the Ascension that Christ first showed us. It is for this reason that the Ascension is so important—it is to be the very model, the very pattern of our lives, lived in Christ and lived like Christ for the sake of others. Being a parent is about giving life and nurturing life.  Others need us right here, on earth, humbling ourselves and our needs before them, that they might be lifted by the love of Christ working through us.  With Christ’s love and his grace, let us commit, whatever our vocations, to helping each other ascend to God and to the fullness of life He offers.