Ascension 21st May 2020

posted 29 May 2020, 04:56 by Parish Office

Homily for the Ascension, Year A (21/5/20)


The Ascension:  Christ went up to heaven on a cloud.  Did the disciples think:  oh well, that’s all that over now; back to how life was before?  No.  First He said to them that all authority, not just in heaven, but also on earth had been given to Him.  As a result, “Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you”.  That command applied to them, and it also applies to us.  It’s not for us to shirk our duty.


We are a missionary Church, and it’s part of our name.  We are Catholics.  But what does “Catholic” mean?  The word “Catholic” comes from the Greek words kata holon which means “according to the whole”.  Those two words, kata holon, have two dimensions:  “according to the whole” as in the Catholic Church has the fullness of the truth revealed by Jesus, teaching without error, and secondly, “according to the whole” in that the Catholic faith is for all peoples:  everyone is to be brought to Christ.  No-one is to be told “you’re fine as you are” or left alone in his or her ignorance.


We have to engage in mission.  The Muslims are trying to convert us.  The Protestants are trying to convert us.  In every parish I have been in, I have had Muslims try to convert me.  They haven’t gotten very far, but they have actually tried.  A group of Protestants in Birmingham tried it once as well, and I pointed out some of their misunderstandings and caricatures of the Catholic faith.  But the Protestants are making inroads in South America, leading many Catholics away from the Catholic faith.  The atheists are trying to convert us to their way of thinking – and look at all the converts they are making – people in our own families.  Are we just going to accept all this, and think that it’s somehow fine for all these people – and others – to try to convert us, but it’s not fine for us to try and convert them?  “But what about ecumenism, what about inter-religious dialogue, what about religious freedom?”  Do any other others halt their missionary efforts because of this?  If Christ has given us the fullness of the truth, and the mission to go, make disciples, baptise and teach, who are we to say no to the Lord?  Should we throw it all away, let everyone else make converts, and let them gradually eliminate us?


Perhaps it’s worth saying a bit about religious freedom.  It is wrong to coerce people – in some parts of the world Christians are either heavily taxed or put to death for practising their faith.  Coercion breed rebellion and resentment.  But coercion is not the only way to convert people.  St John Paul II said that we propose our faith, we don’t impose it.  A bit of a difference there.  We propose, but don’t impose.  But it’s important that we actually propose it, rather than remaining silent.  There is also the complementary saying of “error hath no rights”.  People have rights, but error itself has none and can and should be eliminated.  You would do the same in other areas.  If someone walked into the room and said to you that Boris Johnson had died two weeks ago from Coronavirus, you would probably want to put him right.  So why not when someone claims that Our Lady wasn’t always a virgin, or that Jesus wasn’t God, or that the Catholic Church isn’t the Church that Jesus instituted, and that He didn’t give it infallibility in matters of faith and morals?


“Yes, but that’s kind of hard to debate with.”  Not if you learn about your faith.  Read books.  Watch some of the great videos on YouTube and various Catholic websites.  (If you want to discuss some of the things you come across with me, get in touch.)  We are the Catholic Church.  We are like an army.  Our leader, Jesus Christ, has given us the order to charge.  Before He went to the Cross, He said, “Now the prince of this world is to be overthrown.  And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all men to myself” (Jn 12:31b-32).  We are to defeat the powers of darkness, and sin, and error, and everything else that gets in the way of the reign of Christ, not make peace with them, because making peace with all these is to admit defeat and to give up.


Someone once characterised the three most recent popes’ approach to evangelisation as follows:  Pope John Paul II said, “This is what we believe”.  Pope Benedict said, “This is why we believe it”.  Pope Francis says, “Now get on with it!”  We will each have our own style when it comes to evangelisation.  Some might be more bold, cheeky, even.  Others might be more indirect and diplomatic.  There is no “one-size-fits-all”.  We each have our own styles and each person has to be approached differently.  But approach we must.


So as Pope Francis says, we must get on with it.  And as Christ promised, “know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time”.