Homily - Solemnity of the Ascension

Given at the 4:30pm Mass
Father Craig Holway

The struggle that comes with celebrating the Ascension of our Lord is that it’s hard for us to imagine what that must have been like. What I mean is that maybe we could get our heads around one of Jesus’s healing miracles: a friend gets diagnosed with cancer, she goes into the doctor after a couple of treatments and the cancer’s gone- doctor can’t explain it. Ok. May be we can relate to Jesus’s powerful healing ministry. But the Ascension- the fact that Jesus is assumed into Heaven, taken up into the sky, raised up as though weightless- I can’t even begin to imagine that. But then again, this event, this miracle, this mystery, is not meant to be solved, but instead is meant to be entered into. And that’s where we’ll pray this evening.

My 20th high school year reunion is coming up this year and I won’t be attending.  I’ve come to a point in my life where I’ve kind of moved on from my high school days, the re-living of memories and the retelling of old stories.

I’m thinking of the word nostalgia. It’s a Greek compound word that means, “a yearning for home”. But the connotation is deeper than that. The yearning is a painful yearning, a fierce, consuming desire for something that is long gone and never coming back. A desire to return to something, someplace, sometime that’s never coming back. Have you ever been to Nostalgia, USA: Elvis Presley, “Leave it to Beaver”, the simple life of the 1950s and 1960s. There’s even a segment in the church who want to return to Latin in the Mass as though that will solve everything that’s wrong with the church and our relevancy. Yep- nothing more relevant than the Latin language. Republicans are waiting for the return of ‘Reagan Era Conservatives’.  Nostalgia- a painful yearning for a time and place that’s never coming back.

Nostalgia, my friends, is not a Christian virtue.  This painful yearning for something that’s never coming back; this desire to return and relive the past- this nostalgia- is not a Christian future.

And what the Ascension has to teach us today is that Jesus is more concerned about our future than he is about our past. He ascends into heaven to show us that we have more future ahead of us than we have past behind us. The Ascension makes clear that an eternity is waiting for us on the other side of death. Jesus ascends to this eternity so that he can prepare for us the way to follow him!

However, Jesus can’t raised us up with we are shackled, bound to the past, bound to the burden of memory, guilt, regret and shame that weigh us down like so much tonnage.

So, here’s our place for prayer this week: a healing of memory. In our personal prayer this week we go interior and ask the Lord to heal those memories, that guilt, regret and shame that keep us bound to past and keep us from following Jesus forward all the way to Heaven. We ask the Lord to heal those memories, that painful yearning for a time, place, or event that’s long gone and never coming back.  We’ve all done and said things that we’re not proud of and that we’d probably wish we can forget. But we have the burden of memory. And yet, besides being able to learn from our past mistakes, holding on to them is pointless, fruitless and not of God. Instead, we have to seek forgiveness and healing so that we be rid of them; freed from them; so we too, when our day comes, Ascend to the Father in Heaven where Jesus has gone before us.

Heal those memories so that freed from a yearning for the past, we might be given a yearning for a future- an eternity- a future for of hope and Heaven. Amen.