My Dear Sisters and Brothers! The Day of the Ascension we observe this Sunday is not a farewell. It is the beginning of a different, a more powerful engagement of the Lord Jesus Christ in the matters of our world. The promised Holy Spirit makes Jesus present and active in all corners of the Earth. He is present there through the preaching of his followers and their lifestyle. Jesus’ death, resurrection and glorification at the right hand of the Father are the ongoing source of that preaching. That’s powerful material, that’s message we preach has as its aim “repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
Let’s focus on those two big words: REPENTANCE and FORGIVENESS.
Repentance is one of recurring words in our Christian vocabulary. Many people understand it as a change of life. However change of life is the result of repentance. In the Bible the repentance means change of thinking. However it is not what you can detect in our politicians when you follow their careers. Their change their mind too often. The Bible uses a strong word: metanoia - for repentance. It means that upon encountering Christ, who was crucified, raised and glorified, we become so captivated by his love for us that our thinking is changed for good. A Christian is a person who has been drawn by Jesus. A Christian is a person who has found a lasting love. Those things trigger in us the change of thinking – metanoia. We begin orientating ourselves towards Christ.
If you speak to an adult who converts to Jesus Christ and is baptised you can learn that they are very passionate about their newly discovered faith. We, who have been Catholics for ages, can learn from their enthusiasm for Christ. It is something we miss in our life way too often. However those new Catholics can learn something from us too. They can learn from us to be realistic as they think that their journey to Christ will be like a straight path. We, who have been Catholics for ages, know that it doesn’t happen. We have already learned that our journey to Christ has got many detours. We know that we wander away from Christ. We know well that we can get lured and distracted by things of this world, don’t we? However when we find ourselves away from the path leading to Christ our metanoia – change of mind, which we have been gifted with, kicks in. Then we return because we discover that lures and distractions of this world cannot be compared with the ultimate knowledge and love of Christ. It is because of metanoia that we start crying like the lost sheep for the Lord to come and to pick us up and to bring us back, when we can’t do it ourselves. Metanoia – change of mind makes sense only because of forgiveness we receive from our Lord.
When do we get good at doing things? When we practise them a lot. Our God is good at forgiving. Do you know why? Because he has practiced it a lot. The whole of the Bible tells us how good God is at forgiving. The Bible also tells us that God had many opportunities to practise forgiveness. If God is good at forgiving we should be good at coming back to him. Any honest catholic can say that he or she has practiced coming back to Christ a lot.
To conclude this homily I would like to draw your attention to what Christ expects of us is that we don’t keep what we are good at (coming back to Christ after our fallings) to ourselves. We share it with others. We don’t keep to ourselves that our God is good at forgiving either! We share it with others!
In the first reading, and in the Gospel, we could hear Jesus speak of his followers as his witnesses. However the tamed English word witness doesn’t capture the essence of the original word which is martyr. In his last words to the Apostles, and to all Christians, Jesus Christ said: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my martyrs to the ends of the earth.” A martyr is not only the person who was killed for Christ’s sake. A martyr is the person who makes of his or her life a message of what God can do to those who love him and of how good this God of ours is at forgiving.
Those young people preparing the Ascension Mass had a failure at sending Jesus up to the ceiling of their Church but their failure reinforced the message of the Lord: “I am with you always, until the end of the world.” We may fail Christ many times in our lives but coming back to him, trusting in his forgiveness, reinforces the same message that he is with us. Share your expertise at coming back to Christ with others. Share also with others how good Jesus is at forgiving.