Friday, 4 May 2018

The Ascension of the Lord - Year B

Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Mark 16:15-20

Today we celebrate Jesus going up to heaven and next week we celebrate the Holy Spirit coming down to earth. Just two of the mysteries of our faith – Ascension and Pentecost.

And there are so many more – Incarnation, Nativity, Redemption, Assumption, Baptism, Transubstantiation, Purgatory, Immaculate Conception, Blessed Trinity, Angels, Hell, the Eucharist, the Second Coming and the Final Judgment – to name but a few.

I love the Catholic Faith and I love thinking on its mysteries. I love learning more, immersing myself in the Holy Scriptures and the Catechism, saying the Rosary, the Divine Office, going to Mass and Confession. I am so grateful for the gift God has given me in making me one of his children in the Catholic Church.

For me the Faith is like a huge chest of inexhaustible riches – gold, diamonds, rubies, sapphires – on and on it goes, and they are all mine. I can help myself to as many as I want, and I do, every day. A Catholic is the richest person in the whole world.

And another of the things I love about the Faith is that all these jewels, all these mysteries, fit together seamlessly in a gigantic mosaic of truth which swells the mind and heart to bursting point while always strengthening, always enlarging their capacity to understand and enjoy even more.

The Catholic Faith is so well put together, like a beautiful divine melody. There are no gaps, no contradictions, no false notes, no awkward transitions from one movement to another. Every question is answered and every nuance of human experience enlightened because all has a divine guarantee.

Moreover, I love the way the Catechism is flawlessly meshed with Sacred Scripture which in its turn is so marvellously celebrated in the Sacred Liturgy. This is the radiant mystery of the Catholic Faith – the fullness of God’s revelation to humanity – and it is there for all – no one is excepted.

If the Faith is beautiful so is the Church who preserves and guards it. We cannot love the Faith without loving the Church.

Like you, I know all about the abuse crisis and the scandals; they hurt me as much as they hurt you. They make me equally sad and ashamed and even angry. But I know that this is only the human face of the Catholic Church. This is the human dimension, fractured by weakness and wounded by sin and, to be quite honest, I, and maybe even you, are part of that sinful side of the Church’s reality.

The divine face of the Church is altogether a different matter. Here we see the loving providence of God who forgives and nourishes and teaches and sanctifies all those who approach her. No corruption or evil on the part of humans will cause me to desert the Church who saves me. As St Francis de Sales has said: While those who give scandal are guilty of the spiritual equivalent of murder, those who take scandal – who allow scandals to destroy their faith – are guilty of spiritual suicide.

If the Faith of the Church, and the Church herself, are such flawless expressions of truth it is, surely, because they express Christ, the flawless expression of the flawless Father.

Truth in Christ is exquisitely integrated into a beautiful whole. We may say almost flippantly: Jesus is ‘put together’ better than anyone. In him there is no imperfection or sin, no wounded nature and no weakness – he is perfect man. And we all love gazing on perfection.

If the truth is beautiful it is because Christ is beautiful – and if the Church is beautiful it is because her Master is beautiful. If the Church has Truth it is because she has Christ.

There is only one more thing I wish to say, though there are many more I could say, and it refers to that sometimes ugly human side of the Church we mentioned earlier.

I will never cease to be amazed, as I gaze in wonder at the peerless beauty of all that Christ has revealed of himself, that he desires, intends, suffers – to make me a part of it. And a part of it not as an inferior gem which spoils the beauty of the whole, but as a unblemished jewel which contributes to the glory given to the Father, so that one day, I, too, will ascend into heaven.