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Homily of Bishop William Crean – Ascension Sunday – 21st May 2023

Ascension Sunday

St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh

21st May 2023

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder”

My friends,

Even though religion and church are decreasing in importance in society generally you’ll notice that our speech and language still have signs of faith in God. “Please God”, trips off our lips very easily no less than “thanks be to God” “There but for the grace of God go I”. It’s even more evident in the speech of those for whom Irish is their language of conversation. “Dia dhuit” – God be with you.

What these habits of speech reflect is an underlying faith in God as Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. There is still in the deeper consciousness of many a spiritual dimension that sees our constant need for a sense of grace and the blessing of God in life. We ourselves, in a spirit of faith often promise to remember someone or their intention and need in our own moments of prayer. Indeed, it is heartening to know that someone is remembering you in prayer. It’s a witness to our communion with one another as Christian disciples.

We gather on Ascension Day – when we mark Jesus’ drawing to a close his earthly presence to us and among us. Like all departures it has a bitter/sweet quality. While the disciples are saddened by his going from them in one guise Jesus reassures them of his presence to them, to us, to the world in a new way – henceforth he is present in a unique way in and among the community of disciples. “Where two or three are gathered in my name there am I in the midst of them” (Matt. 18:20).

This understanding of his ongoing presence to the world in and through the Church is both a great consolation and an immense challenge. The increasingly secular culture in which we live finds it difficult to accept and tolerate an understanding of life which places one’s faith and trust in God. Because their world view is confined to and focused on individual freedom and autonomy the secular / humanist is disturbed by the sense of communion and solidarity that comes from our commitment of faith.

Marking the Ascension reminds us of this core dimension to our shared faith experience – that while we each have our unique personal faith and life journey, we choose to gather regularly in prayer especially for Mass to draw from the well of grace and blessing and to strengthen one another by our presence to each other here. As for remembering one another in prayer I have long been drawn to the lines from St. Paul writing to the Ephesians, our 2nd Reading

“May he enlighten the eyes of your mind

So that you can see what hope his call holds for you

What rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit

And how infinitely great is the power he

has exercised for us believers”. (Ephes. 1:18)

Jesus returns to the Father but has not left us orphans. “Where two or three are gathered in my name there am I in the midst of them”.

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