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Ascension of the Lord — renew the face of the earth — Sunday homily, Msgr. Stanley Russell


Msgr. Stanley Russell
Pastor, St. Helena parish

It is that time of year when many folks are thinking about graduations and end of school year — even in this most unusual time of “virtual” celebrations. How fitting it is that we celebrate the Ascension of our Lord.

Msgr. Stanley J. Russell

This event brought to a conclusion Jesus’ “schooling” of the Apostles. He had completed His work of salvation. By His death on the Cross and Resurrection He completed His work and now was ready to return to the Eternal Father who sent Him.

He had completed teaching the Apostles by word and deed and now He was ready to turn His work over to them. He knew He was taking a chance for He knew human nature. He knew we can have the best of intentions and then fall flat on our faces. We could fail to live by the Truth He taught us and in moments of weakness we can fail to live by His commands.

How frustrated He must have felt in His last moments with the Apostles to hear the question “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus must have felt like a teacher realizing on the last day of school that a student has missed the whole point of the year’s classes”! They are still thinking of Him as a political messiah who would reestablish the earthly kingdom. Jesus had said before: “Have I been with you for so long a time and you still do not know me…” He had come to establish a new heavenly kingdom—a new relationship between God and our human race.

Jesus gave them their mission: Go and tell the world what I have said and done. Be my
witnesses! And if they felt uneasy about their task: “Behold, I am with you always, until the end the age.” And St. Luke tells us Jesus told them “to wait for the promise of the Father … you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

The Spirit would now teach them, guide and protect them. In the Spirit, Jesus would be with them. So the Apostles prayed the first Novena waiting for the coming of the Spirit.
No wonder the Church calls us each year in the last days of the Easter season to pray again for a new Pentecost. We know how easy it is for us human beings to forget what our God and Savior has done for us. We know how we can lose much of our enthusiasm, our convictions with the passage of time and dealing with all the happenings of our lives.

Yes, we all need a new Pentecost! We open our minds and hearts and pray:
Come Holy Spirit, fill the heart of your faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.