Our Bishop's Message for Ascension
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that
to his call
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
Jesus is born to us, Emmanuel,
God with us.
His earthly life is lived in complete fidelity to what God has promised and asked of His Son. He reminded His disciples and still us today, He is with us always. The Old and the New Testament is the unfolding Covenant of God among us. This is the hope we discover within the journey of God’s pursuit of us—hope pouring out for all the people. Hope seeds the earth.
What a profound comfort that must have been for the disciples who mourned the loss of their friend at the Crucifixion; puzzled over His reappearance at the Resurrection; and suddenly saw Him being taken up into the clouds. Jesus promised to never leave their side; to know that their love of the Father was love of Him and love of Him is love of the Father. Jesus breathed into them the source of knowledge of Him through the Holy Spirit that they would not be afraid of continuing to love Him, even when they could not see his earthly image. Jesus left, in essence, them to each other because He is in each one.
What of those memories of Jesus? They are restored and recalled and lived first by the disciples and carried on from generation to generation. We may know of this type of memory within our own families, if we have experienced the death of a loved one. While the life of the person on earth becomes a memory, the spirit of the person lives in each one who has love for him or her and that spirit is carried forth in family gatherings, in every day encounters, in the way the family members love one another. By that love, we continue to bring goodness in spite of death.
God is not a memory. God is ever present. The experience of this presence brings the gift of God’s love to each one we meet. This grace is palpable and is known near and afar. Jesus never really left the disciples. His Spirit enlivened them to go into the uncertain future that could not be foretold or known.
Today, we are traveling in that uncertain future. Even if we thought that we knew where we were going during the season of Lent, by mid to late March, our lives were ever changing with the effects world-wide of the COVID19 pandemic. Today, are we standing looking at the sky in disbelief or are we being Jesus’ witnesses to the ends of the earth?
Our first Communicants are not looking at the sky. They are anxiously and joyously awaiting their First Holy Communion. Even with the Pandemic and the postponement of the reception of the Sacrament, they are ready to bring Jesus to others. The Confirmandi have written to me and said they are ok with waiting as long as their Sacrament of Confirmation happens. The Elect, those who have longed to come into the Catholic Church at Easter, are not immobile, but are praying and caring for those whose needs are so great during this time of the COVID19.
Pope Francis said, “every human life, unique and unrepeatable, has value in and of itself: it is of inestimable value. This must always be proclaimed anew with the courage of the Word and the courage of action. It calls us to solidarity and fraternal love for the great human family and for each of its members.”
The Gospel of God’s love, of His ever presence, gives us tremendous joy and unfailing hope. The disciples, dumbfounded at Jesus’ ascension, did not look at the sky very long, but made haste boldly and distinctly to change the world so that all the people would know of God’s love for you and me and everyone.
May we follow the promptings of our heart, founded in God’s goodness, to make a difference in the life of others, no matter the time. May we know the hope of His call and be His presence to one another.
Most Reverend John Noonan
Bishop of the Diocese of Orlando
on Thursday, May 21 at 4:24PM