Ascension Sunday

May 29, 2022

(Final version)

“He, Jesus, was lifted up and a cloud took him from their sight.”  What did that look like?  Actually, no one can tell us, and all we know are paintings from various imaginations.

What we do know is that the presence of Jesus has morphed, has changed into a presence that has no limits.  He is now everywhere.

St. Paul tells us now that Jesus enlightens our hearts, shares a unique sense of hope and that we are going to share a rich inheritance.  Jesus is the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

What that means takes a lifetime to understand and to experience.

We are supposed to be the witnesses, each one in our own way.  We are the witnesses to lives that can be changed.  We are witnesses to forgiving others.  We, too, are invited “continually to praise God” – in our thoughts and in our prayers and in our actions.

-1-

Many times, it is difficult to be a Catholic with an open heart and open mind.  It is too easy to remain in our preconceived notions of what is right and wrong.  

Banning a person from receiving Holy Communion is not going to resolve the delicate and destructive practice of abortion.  Birth control would do that much better.  But again, the Church is against birth control.  There is no perfect doctrine here.  Where is Jesus when we need his wisdom, pastoral sensitivity, and a way forward?  Birth control would help end the scourge of abortion, and so would personal discipline.  Actions do have consequences.

How do we witness the love and values of Jesus in a culture that seems to destroy life so often… and does the National Rifle Association help, opposing all reasonable control of weapons of mass destruction?  Perhaps an archbishop should look into that.  While we can blame mental illness and lack of school security, we could do much more to protect vulnerable situations.  How does an older teenager bring himself to shoot up a classroom of children?  But then again, why is there so much domestic violence?

It is a time to have a rational conversation about human life – from its beginning to its end, and how we can live human life together.

St. Luke opens his Acts of the Apostles with Jesus instructing his friends to wait for the promise of His Father and the Baptism of the Spirit.  We can celebrate that moment liturgically as we do next Sunday on Pentecost, but to receive the Spirit’s transformation and fullness is a whole other experience that takes a lifetime – and it never quite gets rid of our blindnesses or shortsightedness or selfish behaviors.

Jesus tells us to get on with our lives and to live them fully, living what life is supposed to be for ourselves and also for the world and for others.  Being “pro-life” and for a better world, in its fullest sense.  Yes, we have to note that it is not happening in the Ukraine or in Uvalde, Texas, and many other places.

St. Paul prayed in his day, and we need to pray in ours, that the eyes of our hearts be enlightened, that God calls us to have a hope that is real and strong and that we can have his powerful presence for the good in our lives.

We do not keep our faith in a reliquary that holds the bones of saints.  We keep our living faith in our hearts.  We ask Jesus to help us to follow in the footsteps of his heart, to inspire us to make the best decisions and to do our best to make the world a better place.

Jesus tells today that he wants to clothe us with power from on high, not the power to ban anyone or to condemn, but a powerful spirit of humility and service, of guarding and protecting, of promoting what is good for all human life.

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Fr. Mangini’s draft version of the above homily begins with page 1 from above and continues as follows:

Many times, it is difficult to be Catholics with open hearts and open minds.  An archbishop can fault a Speaker of the House.  One slaps and another can return the slap.

Many people who are running for our office, Catholics included, are now promoting the absolute right for an abortion.  Is there anyone who wants to stand up for the little child, who did not ask to be conceived, but perhaps, would like to take a look at life.

If everyone who wanted to have sex would practice birth control, there would be no need for abortion – normally speaking.

I believe that we have not solved the rights of a woman or the rights of an unborn child.

I would hope that the Archbishop would offer to sit down with legislators and sociologists and psychologists and put together a new consortium of thinkers, to solve the unsolvable through deep heart-to-heart listening and finding solutions more compassionate and tenable than just abortion on demand.

And the U.S. bishops have not helped to solve the problem by not promoting birth control as a practical way to end the demand for abortion.

There is something not quite right about taking the lives of those who are unwanted and having the right to live by their conception, and no one foresees where this will take us as a society.  While abortion may become a right, is it good for the overall morality and wholesomeness of our society?  Might it be good not to run headlong into where we do not know that we are going?

To what are we witnessing?  Instead of screaming epithets against each other, now more than ever, we need to dream together, to talk to one another, to find places of agreement and compromise.  I do not hear anyone calling to do that.

“Behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  That is what Jesus said to his disciples as he left them.

Is there something else that God wants more than abortion on demand?  Is there something more that God wants from [archbishops and politicians throwing thunderbolts]?  Are we so far down a trajectory to either/or that we cannot return to a beginning point to take another look at our reality?  We don’t want to kill any more Ukrainians.  We don’t [want] anymore hopeless people to die on the streets.  We don’t [want] anymore people to disappear or go missing.  How many more bodies will they find in Lake Meade?

Has anyone asked if the millions of conceived child[ren] who have endured an abortion for the last 25 years has contributed to a greater quality of life anywhere?  While it may have removed a problem, has it contributed to a greater quality of life?

I do not know the answers to the questions that I have raised, but I believe that it would be better for the Archbishop and Speaker to come together with others to raise all the questions, to talk about them in detail and to try to move us all into a more positive direction.

I end with St. Paul’s opening words to us today.

“May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of Glory, give you a Spirit of Wisdom and Revelation resulting in knowledge of Jesus.”

The knowledge of Jesus?  Would that have something to say, to help?

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