Today we celebrate the second of the three solemnities of the Easter season, the Ascension of the Lord. The Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles tell us that the risen Jesus appeared to his disciples over a period of about 40 days before ascending into heaven in their sight. The ascension of Jesus, however, did not mark his departure from this world, but his presence in a new way. Far from abandoning us, Christ’s ascension into glory has made it possible for him to dwell in us, who are his body, the living stones who are the Church. Christ’s presence is not confined to the dimensions of an individual human body, but “fills all things in every way.” (Ephesians 1:23) As the Lord said, “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20)
In the Communicantes of Eucharistic Prayer I for the Ascension, we hear that Christ “placed at the right hand of [the Father’s] glory our weak human nature, which he had united to himself.” By his incarnation he became one of us, taking upon himself our weak human nature, even to the point of suffering, death and burial. By his resurrection he won the victory over death for humanity. He ascended into glory with his humanity intact and literally has taken human nature to new heights, for “by this wondrous union we, too, are made eternal.” (Christmas Preface III) Today’s feast is another movement in God’s outreach to us in Christ, drawing us to his bosom in the embrace of sheer love.
This weekend we welcome Father Valentine Joseph Gasparraj to our parishes for this year’s Mission Coop Appeal. Father Valentine is currently pastor of Our Lady Queen of Heaven Parish in Wisconsin Rapids, which is Father Hokamp’s home parish. Father will be making the appeal on behalf of his home diocese, the Archdiocese of Madurai in India. The archdiocese has about 270,000 Catholics in a territory of 3,093 square miles, served by 278 priests and 75 parishes. The Catholic population is about the same as in our diocese, but the territory is much smaller. Catholics make up only about 4% of the population. There are envelopes in the pews for this appeal, but the collection will be taken up next weekend. This is so that you can listen to Father’s appeal and consider during the week how best to respond. You can also give online from either parish by clicking on “Mission Coop.” Any checks should be made payable to your parish.
This appeal is being made a little earlier in the year than usual. The reason is that Father Valentine is returning to his archdiocese to teach in the seminary. Aware of this, when I received the letter from our Mission Office that Father Valentine was being assigned as the missionary to our parishes, I called him right away to ask if he wanted to do this before he left and proposed this weekend. It fit his schedule. You may also recall that Father Valentine served for a time at Holy Ghost Parish and he saw this as an opportunity also to say farewell to some of his friends in the area. Father Valentine will be returning home on May 24. Please keep him and the people of his archdiocese in your prayers.
Pray the rosary this week for those from our parishes who have recently received their first communion or confirmation. Pray for Father Valentine Joseph Gasparraj and our brothers and sisters in the Archdiocese of Madurai. Pray also for good weather for the spring planting and growing season. As always, pray for peace.
May God bless his people with peace.