Ascension Sunday / Mother’s Day 2019

     If you knew you were going to pass away, what would your last words to your loved ones be? Jesus finds Himself in this position in today’s gospel. He has already died and rose from the dead and for 40 days He has appeared to His followers, but now He is preparing to ascend to the right hand of the Father where He will remain until He comes to judge the living and the dead at the end of time. So gathering His apostles for the last time, Jesus leaves them with a command to “go out into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.

     You see while Jesus taught many things, healed many people, and performed many miracles, He came into this world with one mission; to save us. It’s a basic teaching of our faith that God, in His great love for us became a man and gave His life so that all of us could have the possibility of attainting eternal life. As Jesus prepared to ascend to the right hand of the Father, He wanted to ensure that His saving mission would endure down through the ages and so He gave His apostles the command to continue that saving work. The apostles in turn headed Jesus’ command and went to the four corners of the known world spreading the message of Jesus Christ. As they went they established Catholic churches to continue that work In time those teachings were written down and today our Church continues that command of Christ to proclaim the gospel.

     Today many Christians genuinely try to proclaim the gospel, but they try to do so without the Church. History, however, is clear that “there is no such thing as God’s word floating around outside the Church – rather it is always transmitted in the Church and through her.”[1] Did you know that the bible we have today was not compiled until the year 382? For nearly 350 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, many different texts were floating around claiming to be the divinely inspired word of God. So in 382 Pope Damasus I called the bishops of the world to Rome to discern what books should be included in the bible and they gave us the version of the bible that we have today. In other words “the primary setting for scriptural interpretation is the life of the Church.”[2] For you see, the second you remove the authority of the Catholic Church from the command of Jesus to spread the gospel you remove the credibility of the scriptures themselves, because we only have confidence that the scriptures are truly the word of God because the Catholic Church discerned this in 382 at the council of Rome. Simply stated the only way to follow this last command of Christ is within the context of the Catholic Church.

     Today, while our Church celebrates the Ascension, our country celebrates Mother’s Day. As we rightly honor our earthly mothers I think we also should remember that the Church is our mother. Just as mothers often have to put unpopular limits on their children and teach them truths that are unpopular, so too the Church must speak truths that are unpopular and call us to a life that will not always be easy. Yet even when we don’t realize it, like all mothers, our Church only challenges us in the way she does because like our own mothers she knows it will lead to a flourishing life.

     If we are honest with ourselves, I think most of us would admit that being a mother is not easy, nor is living as a son or daughter always easy. Likewise living in the Church can be hard, but no matter how hard being a son or daughter is, we still love our mothers and hopefully are not afraid to tell the world how great she is and are ready to defend her if she ever came under attack. If we love our biological mothers enough to tell the world how much we love them and are ready to defend them at any cost, shouldn’t we also desire to express our love for our mother the Church and defend her when necessary? Do you take the opportunity to tell the world of your love for the Church? Do you stand up and defend your mother the Church when others attack her.

     Friends, Jesus is clear with His final command; we must spread the gospel and we can only spread the gospel within the context of the Church. So then come to the Church and have life, and have it abundantly.

[1] Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger. Dogma and Preaching Applying Christian Doctrine to Daily Life. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011. Pg 23

[2] Pope Benedict XVI. Post Aposotlic Exhortation Verbum Domini. Boston: Pauline Books (2010) Paragraph 29.

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