Ascension Sunday 2021: Be His Witness

Today’s homily is for Ascension Sunday, May 16, 2021, and the readings can be found by clicking here. The video can be viewed by clicking here soon.

I once heard about these two Christians arguing over which was the true follower of Jesus. One finally offered a solution, he said, “The Lord said, ‘These signs will accompany those who believe: they will drink any deadly thing, and it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.’” He said, “Here, drink this poison. If you’re a true believer it won’t harm you.” The other man said, how about this, you drink it, and when you die, I’ll lay hands on you to bring you back to life.”

Jesus is not saying to pick up serpents or drink poison! Jesus is telling his disciples to be courageous! Do not be afraid! Right before Jesus ascended to the father he told his disciples, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” He said they would receive power when the Holy Spirit came upon them, and would be his witnesses in Jerusalem, and to the ends of the earth.” This is the Christian mission: to be his witnesses. To proclaim the Gospel to every creature! Tell the whole world the Good News that the Lord has conquered the grave, death could not hold him, and that God has reconciled the world to himself in Jesus Christ by the forgiveness of sins! We have NOTHING to fear…not snakes…not poison…not death or disease. Do not be afraid!

St. Francis even preached the good news to animals. He believed they needed to hear the good news too! Jesus did say to proclaim the Gospel to every creature, didn’t he? Saint Francis believed that God’s desire was that all of creation–not just people–be renewed in the Lord. That’s why Catholics don’t just care about justice for people. We care about justice for the environment: land, air, and water. And justice for animals, wild and tame, on land and sea, and in the air. Catholics care about ALL of God’s creation and all of God’s creatures. 

Good news for some must be good news for all. That’s why we care about Racism, and Poverty, Abortion, and Euthanasia. We care about the Bible and about Sacraments, but also about Immigration, Human Rights, and Human Trafficking. Catholic Social Teaching helps us to understand, live, and teach how the good news of the Ascension is about all people and our world ascending to a higher plan, a better place. 

Ascension Sunday isn’t just about Jesus ascending to the Father, it’s about his disciples not standing there looking up in the clouds, but instead getting out there and proclaiming the Good News and transforming the world and our society one person, one creature, one law at a time. Catholics make the world a better place. We make the environment better, governments better, people better, and souls better. 

We cannot claim to be Catholic and care about Jesus and the Church but not the environment. We cannot care about abortion, but not clean air. We cannot fill ourselves with the Eucharist but remain unconcerned about those who starve to death in the street. We cannot both hail the prince of peace while at the same time advocate for war and support policies enforced by violence. We cannot love our neighbor but at the same time disregard laws or policy that have our neighbor’s health and safety in mind. 

I am not saying that any of these issues are simple. They are not. They are complicated, difficult problems that require real commitment, real care. We need the best minds, the biggest hearts, and the greatest lovers of God and his creation on board. Who better for the task than disciples of Jesus Christ. It’s little wonder Catholic Social teachings are used by the United Nations and governments of goodwill around the world when creating law. Making the world better has never been easy. Do not be afraid. As Matthew Kelly is fond of saying, “Be Bold. Be Courageous. Be Catholic.”

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