Cocamamy Ascension Homilies

Today is the feast of the Ascension. I am fortunate to live in a diocese where the Feast of the Ascension is celebrated on the Feast of the Ascension. As opposed to the 7th Sunday of Easter. Just got back from Mass at a parish that shall remain nameless, for charity’s sake.

First some minor quibbles. You walk in the and the first thing you notice is that you have somewhere made a wrong turn. Because you are apparently in a ski lodge, judging by the wood panelling that covers every square inch of the place. Except for (and I am not kidding here) the fireplace in the corner, at which two small children were roasting marshmallows. So inappropriate. Didn’t they know there was a fast of an hour before Mass?

Then, you are never quite sure that the Mass has started until you watch the crucifix march past you in silence. No music…fair enough, it’s lunchtime. The organist obviously has a day job. But isn’t that what the antiphons are for?

Then, in this new sanctuary, they have placed the area where the altar boys sit so far from the altar that, I kid you not, it takes about 25 seconds for him to walk to it. Meaning that, during the preparation of the gifts, the priest keeps having to wait about 50 seconds between each gift being presented (meaning the wine and bread…I may be misnaming this part of the Mass).

Then, they have replaced the bells at consecration with, I kid you not, a mini-gong. As in: The Gong Show! “…do this in memory of me.” [Goooooonnnnggg] Weird.

I usually attend this parish on holy days that fall during the work week because the parochial vicar typically has very short, but very good homilies. But we didn’t get him today. We had an elderly gentleman, who seems very nice, in a warm cuddly kind of way. But his homily made some very questionable claims, which I will look into momentarily. In his defense, I don’t think it was a homily he had written. He had probably purchased it from someone. Still, if you’re trying to pawn off a canned homily, at least make sure it doesn’t speak mistruths (to be charitable).

So, the claims in question were: the Scriptures aren’t really very concerned with how or when Jesus ascended, as much as where he ascended to. Heck, with some caveats, I’m willing to buy that. But then he went on and gave some examples.

John didn’t mention the ascension: Well…perhaps, but he did write that strange little book called Revelation, in which Jesus is portrayed as the King of Kings, seated with the Father in heaven. One might well be tempted to ask: well, how did Jesus get to heaven? Answer: he ascended there. So, OK, maybe he didn’t actually use the word “ascend”, but it is clearly part of his theology.

Mark and Matthew mention that the Ascension occurred on the day of the Resurrection, while Luke portrays it as happening on Pentecost: Having just checked these texts, I can confidently say that Matthew doesn’t speak about the Ascension at all. Mark mentions it, and I suppose it could be construed as being on the same day as the Resurrection, but it could just as easily be said to be at some other unspecified time. In fact, one would have to argue that a heck of a lot of things (according to Mark’s Gospel) had happened in one day to say that he ascended on the day of the Resurrection. Luke’s Gospel is similar, in that he doesn’t specifically mention any time periods, but the Acts of the Apostles clearly says that he ascended after 40 days*, which is before Pentecost.

Paul doesn’t mention the Ascension at all: Bullshit. Pure and simple. 1) St. Luke is widely held to be St. Paul’s biographer (because they, like, you know, travelled together), so that Luke’s Gospel is held to be apostolic, in light of it reflecting Paul’s thought. 2) Paul mentions the Ascension in several places, one obvious place being, you know, the second Mass reading for the day:

…which he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places… (Ephesians 1:20)

Or in the Scripture reading from today’s Office of Readings:

Therefore it is said, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.” (In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? (Ephesians 4:8-9)

It’s too bad those writing our homilies don’t bother to read the texts they are supposed to be homilizing, or, you know, have a general familiarity with the New Testament.

* Yes, I am familiar with the symbolic nature of the number “40”. But to claim that Luke was here being symbolic (which he very well may have been) doesn’t in any way support the thesis that Jesus ascended on Pentecost. In fact, it hurts your cocamamy thesis (to be charitable).

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~ by Rob on May 17, 2007.

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