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Homily of Bishop William Crean – Ascension Sunday – 29th May 2022

Ascension Sunday

29th May 2022

St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh

Life calls us to communion

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My friends,

The 1st Communion and Confirmation celebrations are in full flow right now.  They are usually wonderful and exciting moments and memories in young people’s lives.  They are the focus and centre of the day and that of their families.  While we all go along with the celebrations, we are increasingly beginning to question what precisely we are celebrating.

If someone asks, we can explain the 1st Communion marks the moment when the child having reached the ‘age of reason’ formally receives the Eucharistic host we believe through the consecration at Mass becomes for us the Body of Christ.

In the case of Confirmation, we mark the moment a young person having made their baptismal promises in their own right, is anointed with the holy oil of Chrism to confirm their reception in faith the gift of the Holy Spirit first given in Baptism.

In the case of both Sacraments an understanding of the commitment to the community of believers is a ‘given’.  Yet we all know that these precious sacraments, so treasured by the Church, are not followed through by so many of our families and young people.  For many reasons the substance of our faith seems not to matter for an increasing number of people.  This is not new in the life of the Church.  It even has a name for it originally a Greek word ACEDIA – it’s a spiritual sluggishness, a form of apathy or spiritual weariness you just can’t be bothered because it doesn’t matter in the end.

We gather in faith on Ascension Sunday where the focus is on the return of Jesus to the Father and his promise of the Holy Spirit to guide and sustain our journey in him.  This is a key moment for us by way of understanding our faith experience or experience of faith and belief through every day.  It is a key moment of re-orientation of how the Lord Jesus, the Christ, the Anointed of God is present to us and with us in life.  To speak to life in the Spirit we mean living and ordering our life under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We are inspired and strengthened to be faithful through our personal prayer.  But we do not come alone to the world nor do we live alone.  Life calls us to communion with one another in life and in prayer.

For the Church, after and along with our personal faith and trust in God the channels of grace and communion are the sacraments, especially, the Mass itself.  For that reason, when the sacramental life of the Church is not fully understood, appreciated and respected reverently the whole “community of believers” are poorer and weakened.  And this is what is/has been happening gradually over the decades whereby we have a real spiritual apathy and sluggishness in our midst.

In making these observations I’m not blaming the children or their families.  But I am alerting families and schools to reflect on the current drift and its implications for the future.  If we do not nurture a vibrant spiritual core to our work with our children and young people we will equip them poorly for their future – in which the questions of morality and meaning will be ever more urgent.

So, Ascension Day is not a long-lost Christian remembrance rather a day in which we realise anew the vibrant new kind of presence of God with us in the gift of the Spirit.

 

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