Fr Thomas’ Homily for The Ascension of the Lord

Be Ready to Transform the World

Matthew who has been describing how much Jesus wanted to restrict his ministry to within the boundaries of Israel, concludes his Gospel on a very different note.  Just before his departure to heaven, Jesus called his disciples to a mountain in Galilee, like the way Moses called his disciples to Mount Nebo before departure from earth. Moses blessed his disciples. At his ascension, Jesus also blessed his disciples, and that blessing was a commissioning. In his ministry time Jesus was approached by a Canaanite woman with a request to exorcise her daughter from a demon. To her he answered, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Mt 15:24). The same Jesus at his ascension said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you”. (Mt 28:19).

During his ministry, Jesus was training his disciples how to evangelise in a real life situation like that of Israel. The Israelites who aspired for the rule of God could see only two options before them: either fight with the oppressive regime of Roman emperor like the zealots did or to flee the corrupt society and live a secluded spiritual life like the Essenes of the time. But Jesus showed the disciples, through what he did and said,  how to work for the Kingdom of God (rule of God) neither by confrontation nor by fleeing the world. Now the disciples are to go to the whole world and teach them how to bring the rule of God without shirt fronting the evil powers or sneaking out of the corrupt world. The disciples are to transform the world as Jesus did. 

Church continues to engage with the world, with its good and bad, not in a fighting mood but pointing out ways of transformation. We see this in the actions of Pope Francis who washed the feet of Muslim prisoners, and in the words of Saint John Paul II who stood up in communist Poland and announced, “we want God”. The Church did not pick up arms against ISIS terrorists who beheaded twenty-one Coptic Christians, instead these Christians are listed Martyrs. We can do it because we trust in the words of Jesus, “I will be with you always”, great words of encouragement from the clouds at the ascension.

Today we celebrate Christ’s continued presence with us and ready ourselves for the mission of transforming the world around us as he has taught us.