5.13.18. Sun. 7th wk of Easter – B
The Ascension of the Lord
Acts of the Apostles 1: 1 – 11
Ephesians 4: 1 – 13
Gospel of Mark 16: 15 – 20
Please refer to your own Bible for the Scripture readings.
Homily: Fr. Mike Murphy Signs of †Jesus in Our Community
Before †Jesus ascended into heaven He assured His disciples that He would be with them always. And †Jesus gave several signs of His continuing presence among the community of believers. Ways that they will know that He is still with them. We read: “These signs will accompany those who believe; in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their bare hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick and they will recover”. (Mark 16: 16-17) †Jesus is in our midst. Have you seen anyone doing these things? Humm. Well they do happen and they happen all the time. Maybe not in literal ways as †Jesus said, but certainly in mystical ways. I see those things happening all the time here at Sacred Heart.
†Jesus said: “In my name they will drive out demons”. You see, the evildoer is always trying to deceive us and lead us away from the Lord and down the path of selfishness and sin. But, through lives of virtue we drive out these demonic impulses. We choose to live lives of self-gift. We see this in many mothers: a willingness to sacrifice, over and over again for those whom they love, for their family. Every act of kindness and love drives away the evildoer and if God is love – then when we use the Lord’s name – by loving others, we drive out demons. You see – it happens all the time.
†Jesus says: “They will speak new languages”. (I’m still trying to perfect my Spanish.) The language of the secular culture is the language of power, prestige and possessions. The social media has been weaponized – tearing people down with lies spread all over the internet, all over cyberspace. Whether it is “fake news” or good old-fashioned gossip, lies are dividing us as a people, as a nation, as a Church. Within our community I see many who speak a language that is foreign to the worldly. It is the language of love and generosity; they are living lives of sacrificial love.
This week I sat down with our Diocesan auditors, they come to every parish, every three years to check our books, to make sure the pastor isn’t buying a condominium somewhere in Coronado. They want to make sure we are following Diocesan policies and doing everything we need to be doing – the right way. But one of the auditors this week expressed his absolute amazement at the generosity of our parish. In looking over all the financial books, he realized the hundreds of thousands of dollars that we give to charity every year – to those who are in need. In his work as an auditor, he was astounded by our generosity – he has not seen that in other parishes.
Next weekend we will package 70,000 meals for the poor of Casa de los Pobres in Tijuana and the poor of Haiti. We will be packaging these meals to send to them – because we care. You see, this is the language that the selfish and greedy cannot comprehend. A language that is spoken only by ‘Saints in Training’ and that’s what we are – ‘Saints in Training’ when we speak that language of love.
†Jesus says: “They will pick up serpents with their bare hands”. Now to the Jewish people at the time of †Jesus, serpents symbolized Satan, because of the serpent in the garden who tempted Adam and Eve. But faithful Christians are not afraid of the evildoer, they are not afraid of evil. And when tragic events occur in our lives, we put our trust in the power of God and in the grace of the Holy Spirit to be with us during those times. In my time here as pastor, I have walked with many of you through your lives, sometimes through very tragic moments in your lives. And I am always humbled by the courage and the faith you express during those difficult times. You never ‘throw in the towel’ or walk away from the Lord; you walk in trust and in hope. Throughout the Scriptures, the Lord tells us: “Be not afraid – be not afraid”. We need not be afraid, even if there are serpents around us.
†Jesus says: “If they drink any deadly thing it will not harm them”. As God’s people, we have to understand – we are not separated from the world, we are immersed in the world. We are affected by the world every single day of our life. What affects the world, affects the Church as well. And †Jesus instructed His disciples: “Go into the world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature”. We live in the world – we are not cutoff from the world, and yet – while the secular culture tries to poison our hearts and souls – with its “Kool-Aid” – we have the Body and Blood of Christ to protect us – to strengthen us and to sustain us to eternal life.
And you children who are receiving your First Holy Communion today – you will receive †Jesus – His Body and Blood, His Soul and Divinity. He is always there to protect you because †Jesus is the antidote to everything that is evil. As you receive your First Holy Communion today, we hope it is the beginning of a life-long love of †Jesus in the Eucharist and that you will always turn to Him; He will give you strength and nourishment through Holy Communion.
The Resurrection and the Ascension of †Jesus are signs that the world will never have the last word. They thought when they nailed Him to the cross, it was over and done with. †Jesus showed that it was not to be the case. With faith, hope and love – the world can never poison us with its lies – ever.
†Jesus says: “They will lay hands on the sick and they will recover”. One of the things that people notice about our Faith Community here at Sacred Heart is that we are a Prayerful Community. We pray for one another, we ask the Lord’s grace and healing for one another. I can’t tell you how many times – after a weekday Mass or after a Sunday Mass – someone will ask for the Anointing of the Sick. Maybe they’re facing surgery or having chronic health problems. I’ll come out after the Mass with the Holy Oils and if anyone is just standing around in the Church talking, they will gather around too and they will all lay hands on that person as we pray for them; as I anoint them. We are a Prayerful Community, we lay hands on one another – both figuratively and literally – to bring healing to them. This is a parish that has been the recipient of many, many miracles – we have even seen physical miracles – because we ask – we seek – and we knock at the door of heaven and intercede for our brothers and sisters.
In our second reading today, St. Paul identifies signs that Christ is at work. He wrote: “Living in a manner worthy of the call we have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of Spirit through the bond of peace”. (Eph.4:1ff) As we live these virtues, we can be confident that we are following the Lord’s instructions that were entrusted to the apostles and then passed on to us – to proclaim the Good News to every creature.
On this Mother’s Day weekend – we honor our moms who witness these virtues and they are deserving of our gratitude, of our love and our respect. This week I happened to gather with a special group of women, the mothers of children with special needs and challenges. (We have a support group for these mothers that meets once a month.) I listen and I am amazed at their stories of the challenges that they and their children face daily. And one of the mothers said: “We belong to a club that nobody wants to join”. They do. Nobody wants to be the mother of a special needs child, but these are women with great courage. These are mothers who truly live sacrificial and self-giving lives. They are fluent in the language of love. They face daily challenges with courage and faith. It is their faith that sustains them, not the poison of the logic of the culture – that sees little value in people with special needs. We live in a culture that promotes abortion and euthanasia – to free-up a woman to be all that she can be – that is – according to their agenda. The faith of these mothers is grounded in prayer, even when those prayers seem to go unanswered.
As part of the evening we all gathered in our ‘Heart of †Jesus Prayer Garden’ around the ‘Mary, Mother of Compassion’ statue and each woman held a candle. As I saw the candles, I imagined that they were reflecting a ‘living flame of love’ in the heart of each one of those women, the same love that †Jesus has for all His children. To me that candle was symbolic of the bright light that will shine around them as they gather with the saints in heaven because of how they love their children in difficult times. They will be among the saints in heaven. But to all of our mothers here today – Thank You for your sacrifice! Thank You for your selfless love poured out! Your husbands love you, your children love you; those who are like children to you – love you, and I assure – God loves you! In the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.