Mk 16.15-20                 AA 1.1-11            Eph 4.1-7,11-13

On the top of the Mount of Olives is a small church, funnily enough, somehow owned by the Moslems, as I recall, following the Crusades, where the Christians are allowed in at this time of the Church’s year, to celebrate the Ascension of Jesus.  Inside, there is a concrete slab, with a big footprint embedded.  And tourists are told this is the place where Jesus finally took off! It’s a source of revenue, but the whole thing has to be taken with a grain of salt or more, given that it’s an obvious setup, and a tourist trap, just like the so-called Tomb of Lazarus, be it his first or second, outside Jerusalem!! (And one giant leap was not going to provide the escape velocity to at least go into orbit! That took till 1961 with Yuri Gagarin of the USSR!).  We can’t take things too literally.

The Gospel accounts of Jesus’ Ascension vary, with this one from Mark considered a much later addition to the end of his Gospel, which the scripture scholar say, ended with the women running away from the empty tomb in fear and uncertainty. Luke has the most detailed account of Ascension, in his orderly way, 40 days after the Resurrection event, with various appearances of the Risen Jesus along the way in between, with Doubting, but Honest, Thomas coming to faith that all is well and that it is truly Jesus, whose presence he experiences, and so moves forward in faith, with a sense of mission to spread the Good News and get on with the job, so to speak, along with the other 10 apostles.

The final commission of the Risen Jesus in Mark’s Gospel today, includes Jesus’ assertion that evil will be overcome, and sickness will be healed, but let’s face the reality that not all evil will be eliminated, and not all will be healed, and there remains the fact of life that we all have to face up to our mortality, so if you haven’t already made a will, you should!

For example, just this last week, I had a further 2 funerals, one of a 22 year old young woman, and another of a 62 year old who had unexpectedly died in her sleep.  Now I have to go back to Sydney this coming week to farewell my parish manager/secretary Margaret, with whom I worked happily (although she did call me quirky!) for the 5 years or so I was parish priest at Asquith, just north of Hornsby. She had bravely faced up to ill-health, with many ups and downs over the years, with a spirit of determination and a positive attitude to making the most of the time she had, with her loving family, and loveliest of all was that she lived to see her grandchildren, and was very much a part of their lives. So, sad as it is, it’s reassuring that they’re old enough to remember her fondly.

It’s a reminder to me that we can’t take life or good health for granted, and that we should all make the most of our opportunities to enjoy life and appreciate family and friends, as well as facing up to the challenges in life which can weigh us down at times.

Meanwhile, as life goes on, so does the mission of the Gospel. We have 8 parish Baptisms to celebrate in a few weeks, so the faith community continues to grow, as I also have just about finally worked my way through First Reconciliations with most of our 120 or so Grade 3’s in our two parish primary schools!

(As all 4 Gospels conclude, it is clear that Jesus’ promise is to be with us always, until the end of our lives, and beyond, for believers, and that his message is universal, without limits.  We are reminded that where we gather in his name, his presence is among us, as well as in his Word and in the Eucharist, the Bread of Life or Bread for the Broken, as we act in memory of him here, gathering in worship, but also, out there, as we live our lives, reflecting his love by living our faith in word and deed.)

The mission goes on, as we continue to live the Gospel and take the words of Jesus to heart, in living in his love and sharing it.  A further example of  lived mission is the way nearly 30 parishioners and others came together this past week to join the Alpha program, and share hospitality, prayer and faith reflection.  It was a terrific start, and it’s thanks to Paul and the OLN parishioners who provided the initiative to bring this opportunity to us on the local scene, and for us to work together as parish communities.

And now it’s also time to give our Mums a go! It’s good to have an occasion where we can acknowledge the love and care of mothers throughout our lives, whether they are with us or not.  Mine has been gone now for over 21 years, but I can still hear her voice, giving good advice and expressing concern for all the family, and her hopes that we’d stick together and have healthy and happy lives.  She was fortunate enough to see her 7 grandchildren come into her life, and had the chance to be a positive influence in their lives, as well as those of her own 5 children, and the partners.  As an only child of older parents (46 & 42 when she was born in 1922, the year St Therese’s parish was founded!), she was certainly a person who lived her faith out with a loving, compassionate and generous heart for all, family and well beyond.

(Mums can be a bit unrealistic sometimes, however, as mine once asked me to ring her when I had reached my destination, driving from Ottawa to Montreal, and I’d made the mistake of telling her there was a snowstorm coming!! Then she’d occasionally ring at 3am, waking me up, and then apologising for adding 16 hours instead of subtracting, given the time difference! And there was no stopping her worrying about all of us, even though we know worry doesn’t make any difference, apart from expressions of love!!) 

The love and service they provide is something we can’t really measure, but we know it’s important to acknowledge this with gratitude and love, rather than just presuming they are there for us, whatever.

In conclusion, Ascension reminds us that this is the time of the Church to continue its mission in building God’s Kingdom of justice, love and peace, as proclaimed by Jesus.  So, once again, it’s up to you and me to live this Gospel, applying the gifts of the Spirit and producing the good fruits, as Paul reflects in today’s second reading, in his Letter to the People of God at Ephesus.

(And finally I have a Mothers’ Day reflection titled “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch, illustrated by Sheila McGraw.). Happy Mothers’ Day to all mothers and those who provide motherly care and support.

john hannon                                                                         12th May 2024


And, as Brendan Byrne SJ says: “Ascension is not simply something that happened to Jesus – his departure physically from this world. It is the feast that celebrates the hope that evil and all that makes for dehumanisation and death in our world will not have the last word.”

And Claude Mostowik MSC, as usual, has some helpful words too: “Today’s feast, despite some views, is not about focusing on ‘heaven up there’, but on God’s presence everywhere and in everyone. By implication, it is not only about his presence, but our presence, Jesus’ presence and our presence as witnesses, cannot be separated… The power to love as Jesus loved; to be present with and be for the hungry, the naked, the powerless and homeless; the power to resist those who dominate, exploit and treat others unjustly; to give oneself for others, to persevere in the face of difficulty and opposition; and do things they never thought possible… We need to take Jesus’ presence seriously… The Gospel message of love needs to be embedded in our lives.”

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