I will be with you always

Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord into Heaven – his graduation from this world. Before leaving he gave his disciples what we call “The Great Commission,” the commandment to make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. It was the last commandment he gave before leaving earth and that is why for us Catholics baptism is something more than just a symbol. Baptism is the beginning of the Christian life when we become sons and daughters of God. Jesus wanted to make sure we had that right. We have one God but in a great mystery that we can only know through faith, God is three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus who is the Son of God came to reveal the Father to us and give us the power of the Holy Spirit. Through baptism we are brought into the life of the Holy Trinity, we are born-again, we become true disciples of Christ.

But even then we can doubt these mysteries of God. It is the human condition. We simply cannot think that big. The disciples suffered from this doubt, even in the presence of Jesus after his Resurrection as we heard in the Gospel: “When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.” Doubt weakens our Christian witness, robs us of our zeal, and makes us troubled in spirit. We think, “How can that be true.” Or if someone challenges our faith, we say “Well maybe what I believe is wrong.”

We need the power of the Holy Spirit once again to strengthen us. That is why Jesus promised to send the Holy Spirit right before he ascended into Heaven as we heard in the first reading. And so next Sunday we’ll celebrate Pentecost Sunday, when the Holy Spirit came down on the Apostles. The power of the Holy Spirit gives us courage and makes us witnesses for God. You can think of someone who witnesses their child graduate from high school and then they go and spread this good news to others. And even though they did not see it they are inspired and they tell others. After receiving the Holy Spirit the apostles no longer doubted but were inspired to go to the ends of the earth preaching the good news of Jesus. We need the Spirit so that we recognize Jesus not just as a man but as the Son of God who died and rose for us and ascended into heaven. Otherwise, we fall into doubt and we are poor witnesses. St. Paul knew how important this was and so in the second reading we hear him pray for the Ephesians, “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.” This Spirit of wisdom and revelation comes to us through Confirmation. We become fully initiated into the Church which St. Paul says is the Body of Christ. But we must use this gift to become vibrant disciples of Christ

One of the gifts of this knowledge that comes from the Spirit is knowing about our great inheritance in heaven with all the holy ones, the saints. And so our greatest desire should be to go to Heaven. When we have this goal in mind then we can stay motivated and remain faithful to Christ - to continue to live the Christian life, to worship Christ without doubting every Sunday, no matter the sacrifice. So Confirmation doesn’t mean you stop coming to Church or living the Christian life but it helps you to do these with even greater commitment. It is like our graduating seniors, many who have goals to follow. Graduation is not the end but it leads them to the next step and having goals will help them endure much sacrifice in order to move forward in life. The television, movies and songs on the radio tell you the goal of life is to have fun. Of course, there is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself in life and having fun along the way as long as there is no sin in it and it doesn’t hurt your Christian witness. But whatever we pursue in life, as Christians we have to remember that Jesus gave us the Great Commission to teach others how to observe all that he commanded us to do so that they may inherit eternal life, also.

Pursue your goals, pursue your dreams. But whether you are going to be a doctor, lawyer, salesman, serviceman, or family man, we are all called to teach others about Christ. And the main way we evangelize and call others to follow Christ is through our witness. If others see you getting drunk, going to parties, dressing immodestly, speaking foul language, not keeping Sunday, the day Christ rose from the dead, sacred and holy, then you are being a poor witness. So having fun and pursuing a job is important but don’t allow following these earthly goals cause you to give up the goal of Heaven. It is good to have goals in this life. Those who have true goals will be able to sacrifice fun for the greater good, whether some are going on to higher studies, or to work, or into the military – you sacrifice now for something greater later. And it will be worth it.

But this is also true with our Christian life. Our goal is Heaven. And that means sacrificing some things on earth. By living this way you become witnesses to others of something much greater than anything on earth can give us. Yes it will be hard, sometimes very hard, to witness to Christ, to be a true disciple, to not follow the popular trends of turning your back on the Church which is the Body of Christ in order to live a life of fun or pursue the dream of having a successful life. Most people will do this, even Christians. But it is important that we present-day disciples remember the message of the angels to the first disciples after Jesus ascended by a cloud into Heaven. The angels said: “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” Jesus ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of his father but he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end. This is what we believe. This is our great hope. And so the words of the angels keep us motivated in order that we will continue to witness to Christ with our words and actions, in what we choose to do and what choose not to do.

And when we get weary along the way of life and when we suffer from doubt about our Christian faith, we can remember the words of our Lord Jesus himself: “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” All we have to do is pray to the Holy Spirit and our spirit will be renewed. May the promise of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit give us confidence to remain faithful to him and be his witness everyday until we see him return in the clouds to take us home to our Heavenly Father. Amen.

Father Timothy Gallagher


St. Bernadette Roman Catholic Church
101 South College Street
Cedartown, GA 30125
(770) 748-1517
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