Solemnity of the Ascension

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord.  Every Sunday in the Creed, we profess our faith in the fact that Our Lord Jesus Christ returned to the right hand of the Father where He reigns in glory until the day when He will come to judge the living and the dead at the end of time.

Jesus Christ has ascended to Heaven, and yet He has not abandoned us.  He continuously intercedes for us with the Father.  He is our constant companion on our journey through life and we come in contact with Him in a most intimate way each and every time we receive Him in Holy Communion.  Just before He ascended, Jesus also promised to send the Holy Spirit to be with the Church and with us so that we might be guided into all truth.

The Holy Spirit was promised, first and foremost, to the Apostles.  The Holy Spirit guides us, in a particular way, by working through the Church.  Jesus Christ gave the Apostles the authority to teach in His name: He said to the Apostles, “He who listens to you listens to Me.”  (cf. Luke 10:16ff.)  Jesus came to reveal the Father to us.  He said that He is the Way to God.  If we want to get to know God, we have to get to know Jesus Christ.  Jesus said that no one comes to the Father except through Him.  (cf. John 14:6)  Jesus revealed God to the Apostles: the Gospel today tells us that He taught the Apostles many things and then sent them out to teach the nations all that He had commanded them.  He did not tell the Apostles to write a book: He told them to go and teach.  When we say in the Creed that we believe in a Church, which is “Apostolic”, we mean that the Church is founded on the Apostles and their teaching.

Our Catholic Faith is not based on the Bible alone, as the Protestant faiths are.  We believe that Scripture is the inspired Word of God, but we also know that the Church came before the Bible.  It was, in fact, the Catholic Church that declared which Books were truly inspired by the Holy Spirit.  The Books that are in the Bible were not the only books written by Christians in that time period.  There were other books written around the same time, but the Church declared that they were not inspired.  The reason that we know which Books belong in the New Testament is because the Church has told us which Books have been inspired by the Holy Spirit.  We need the Church to know which Books are to be included in the Bible.

Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would remain with the Church always and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church.  We look to the Church that Jesus Christ established as a sure guide to help us arrive at the truth about God.  Scripture tells us that the Church is the pillar of truth in the world.  (cf. 1 Timothy 3:15)  In order to know God, He has to reveal Himself to us; and God has revealed Himself to us.  Jesus Christ has made God known and He established His Church to spread what He revealed to the ends of the earth.

In the Creed we also acknowledge our belief that the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Scriptures.  The Holy Spirit inspired the authors of Sacred Scripture to write what they wrote.  The Holy Spirit speaks through the authors of Sacred Scripture and He also speaks to our hearts when we read Scripture.  When we read Scripture we do not read it like we read other books; when you read Scripture you are encountering a living Word inspired by God.  God desires to communicate to you through that Word.  Scripture can be studied like a textbook, but that is not its purpose.  Scripture has been handed down to us so that we can encounter God: God wants to speak to you through Scripture, but we have to be open to listening.  We have to allow God to speak to our hearts through it.  We have to spend time reading, meditating and praying with Scripture in order for it to have an effect on our lives.  Scripture doesn’t just inform our minds, it does that, but it also enflames our hearts with love for God and strengthens our wills to follow Him.  Through Scripture we learn about God, but are also inspired by it.

The Holy Spirit speaks through the Church and through the Scriptures, but the Holy Spirit also speaks to our hearts.  The Holy Spirit inspires our hearts with faith, hope and love.  The Holy Spirit gives us His gifts and we should ask Him to increase His gifts within us.  The Catechism also tells us that our conscience is the place in our hearts where we hear the echo of the voice of God.  (cf. CCC 1776)  Through our conscience the Holy Spirit inspires us to do things that we know we should do and warns us to avoid things that we know that ought not do.  We have to properly form our consciences according to Scripture and the teachings of the Church and forming our consciences is a life-long task, but we should listen to the whisperings of conscience.

Let us pray that each one of us will be open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit in our daily lives: Come Holy Spirit, direct and guide us in all that we do.  Help us to hear Your voice as You speak to us through the Church, through the Scriptures and within our hearts.  Increase Your gifts within us, that we may be ever more faithful and come to share ever more fully in the divine life that You desire to give to our souls.  Enkindle in us the fire of Your love.  Amen.