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Turn to Jesus (Article)

A Threefold Longing
Fr. Walter Schu LC shares his homily from the seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut, for the celebration of the Ascension of Jesus Christ

Ascension of the Lord

Following is the text of the homily given by Fr. Walter Schu LC to those at the Legion of Christ seminary in Cheshire, Connecticut, attending the Mass celebrating the Ascension of Jesus Christ.

Longing for our Lord

If we had to describe the meaning of today’s feast in one single word, that word would be longing. The disciples, gathered together on the mountain in Galilee, long for the Lord to remain with them as he ascends into the heavens. They can’t quite believe he has really and definitively left them, as they remain speechless, staring at the sky. It takes two angels dressed in white to shake them out of their reverie.

Fray Luis de León, in his famous poem, asks Christ with disbelief, almost quarreling with our Lord, if he is actually going to leave his flock, once and for all.

¿Y dejas, Pastor santo, tu grey en este valle hondo, oscuro, con soledad y llanto;
y tú, rompiendo el puroaire, te vas al inmortal seguro?

Who will calm the storms at sea, now that the Lord has left them? Who will protect them against the fury of the Pharisees and Sadducees? Who will gently chide them in their strife with one another as they seek the highest places, and remind them that he who would be first must be the servant of all? What prospects can they hope for in the remaining years of their lives, now that the Lord, who is everything for them, has been taken up into glory beyond the clouds?

All of these questions lead us to a final one: Why did our Lord do it? Why did Christ ascend into heaven and not remain on earth to protect and console his disciples? To guide the turbulent tide of events and the very course of history? Why did our Lord ascend? Why did he leave us?

Longing for heaven

The preface of today’s Mass hints at an answer:

“Mediator between God and man, judge of the world and Lord of hosts, he ascended, not to distance himself from our lowly state but that we, his members, might be confident of following where he, our Head and Founder, has gone before.”

This answer from the Liturgy brings us to a second great longing that is part of the meaning of today’s feast: our longing for heaven.

All of the second year novices, after reading Vita Consecrata and Pastores Dabo Vobis, know well one aspect of our vocation as religious which is part of its very essence: by professing our vows, we become eschatological signs of the Kingdom of Heaven. To each person we meet we become a living reminder that our real home is not here — it is up in heaven. We are just pilgrims, passing through life, on a continuous journey toward our homeland.

These past few weeks I’ve had the honor of bringing Holy Communion to Robert Davey and Ed Smith, both of whom are slowly nearing the end of their journey. It’s like a shot in the arm to see how their faces light up with joy when I tell them I’ve brought the Lord to them. That joy is a vivid reminder to each of us priests and future priests that the closest we can ever get to heaven on this earth is when we are right here in the Lord’s presence in the Eucharist.

Longing for the Holy Spirit

Christ’s parting words to his apostles allude to a third longing that underlies today’s feast. “Behold I am with you always, until the end of the age.” How can Christ make this strengthening but apparently unrealizable promise to his closest followers, at the very moment that he definitively leaves them? Christ’s last and greatest promise will be fulfilled in just nine days at Pentecost. Those are nine days in which the apostles long ardently for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

Just how much does each of us need that same coming of the Holy Spirit in our own life? We need him so that the Father can enlighten the eyes of our hearts, that we may know the hope that belongs to his call. We need him to experience “the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe.” We need him to be able to fulfill Christ’s great commandment to make disciples of all nations.

How our hearts need to burn with longing during these next nine days—just like the hearts of the disciples on the road to Emmaus burned within them when the Lord walked beside them and revealed the Scriptures to them!

Conclusion: A Threefold longing

Today’s feast instills in us a threefold longing: a longing for our Lord, a longing for heaven, and a longing for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Let us ask our Blessed Mother during these final days of May to increase that longing in our hearts until it is at last fulfilled in eternal life.



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