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Sunday Homily, 12 May 2024 - Fr Paul Rowse, OP

Some time ago, in a place not far from here, a body was found.  It was a shocking sight for those who came upon it.  The person had been fatally wounded but rigor mortis hadn’t set in.  Local forces did their best to keep the scene clean and secure.  But strangely, there was never an investigation as to what had happened.  The body simply turned up to the surprise of all concerned.  Such is the scene in heaven after the Lord’s Ascension.

The body of the risen Lord came to be in heaven.  It still bears the wounds which are directly associated with his death: those the nails made in his hands and feet, and the one the spear made in his side are still there.  Angels stand in awe at the sight of this glorified body seated above them, adoring God’s handiwork – for there is a human body in heaven.  Mortality’s captor and life’s champion, Christ, in the body he received from his mother in the womb and from his Father in the resurrection, takes his seat of honour above all creatures.  A human body sits in heaven, crowned with light.

It doesn’t quite fit.  Mortals like you and me inhabit a mortal world.  That’s where we belong.  We occupy time and space; we have our feet on the ground and stand shoulder to shoulder.  But Christ has no need to occupy space and time like we do.  He is completely free from any constraint.  So, we should see whether this world is the best place for his risen body to abide.  He was loosed from the tight-wound burial cloths and released from the stone-sealed tomb; he evaded the guards and rejoined his friends.  This isn’t the behaviour of someone who belongs here.

The Son of God belongs with his Father.  And so, the living flesh of Christ and the warm blood which courses through it are sent up into the Father’s presence.  He was with us for a short time, these forty days, to reveal the fact of his resurrection and to increase the joy of his disciples.  Now that we know him to be risen from the dead and therefore have the joy which cannot be taken from us, he ascends into heaven to be with his Father.  The Father is who the Son belongs to.

So, in the Ascension of Christ, we get to see a little more of what rising from the dead means.  It doesn’t mean another lease of life or another chance to get things right here.  The resurrection, such as we now aspire to and hope for, means being seated alongside our loving Father surrounded by his saints and angels, as a whole person, glorified body and immortal soul.

Rising from the dead also means we have to get it right in this life.  There’s no second chance after death: by then, it’s too late.  All of the opportunities for bettering ourselves and doing good are to be found here, in this mortal world.  We don’t want anyone to panic or to be afraid.  But it is high time we got our lives together and did only what is good.  This is what it means to live for heaven while still on earth: it means recognising that earth is not our home; it’s just where we get to live for a time.  Our true home is in heaven, and Jesus Christ, whose return we long for, will come from heaven to save us.

As aspiring and hopeful disciples, we recognise that our home is in heaven with Christ our teacher.  We do all the good we can here on earth, so that we shall be the kind of people who can rise up to heaven, who want to be there where Christ is.

Fr Paul Rowse, OP

Parish Priest

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