Solemnity of The Ascencion of the Lord

Today is Ascension Sunday, and is a kind of wake up call. St. Paul says we should lift our eyes from the worries and anxieties of this life to see Jesus seated at the right hand of the Father. Being at the right hand means authority. We have a choice: to accept his rule or reject it. People today, including many Catholics, have been lulled into the belief that we will be saved by being sincere and benevolent. Those who visited Stalin in the 30's and 40's came away impressed by what a kindly, fatherly figure he was[1].

What really matters is whether you allow Jesus to plant his flag in your heart. That alone will save you. Do not be afraid. He accepts even the tiniest act of surrender. However, in the long run he wants his rule to extend to every aspect of our lives. Once we accept Jesus, we cannot pick and choose which of his commandments we will follow.

As everybody knows, we live in such a shopper society we can treat our faith as one more item on the shopping list. This is called Cafeteria Catholicism, the desire to control whatever is placed on my plate. "Yes, I accept Jesus' teaching--and he should be darn grateful to me for doing so. But I also want a little bit of this..." Maybe we say things like, "I worked hard for my money. I can spend it however I want." Or "I can do what I want with my own body." Or "The Church should keep out of people's bedrooms."

I would like to say a word about that last slogan, Cafeteria Catholicism. When I hear people say the Church should stay out of their bedroom, I want to say this, "Jesus does belong there." You invited him on the day you got married. What happens there is his concern. He wants to rule over every aspect of our lives.

Once when I made a retreat, I learned this way of making an examination of conscience. At the end of the day ask, what things did Jesus and I do together? What things did I do on my own? When I called that person who needed to hear from me, Jesus was acting right with me--or thru me. But then later, I just brushed someone off. Face it; I was acting on my own. Our life is that kind of struggle to allow Jesus to take more and more authority, to extend his rule further in our hearts.

San Francis of Sales wrote a beautiful prayer that could be helpful for our soul today: If only I possessed the grace, good Jesus, to be totally at one with you! Amidst all the variety of worldly things around me, Lord, the only thing I crave is unity with you. You are all my soul needs. Unite, dear friend of my heart, this unique little soul of mine to your perfect goodness. You are all mine; when shall I be yours? Lord Jesus, my beloved, be the magnet of my heart; clasp, press, unite me for ever to your sacred heart. You have made me for yourself; make me one with you. Absorb this tiny drop of life into the ocean of goodness whence it came[2]

[1] Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Eph. 1:17-23; Mt. 28:16-20.
[2] Saint Francis de Sales (in French, St François de Sales) (21 August 1567 – 28 December 1622) was bishop of Geneva, Switzerland and a Roman Catholic saint. He worked to convert Protestants back to Catholicism, was an accomplished preacher. He is known also for his writings on the topic of spiritual direction and spiritual formation (including Introduction to the Devout Life), and other religious subjects. De Sales was beatified by Pope Alexander VII in 1661 and canonized by the same pontiff in 1665. He was declared a Doctor of the Church by Blessed Pius IX in 1877.[1]

Ilustration: Garofalo, Ascension of Christ (1510-20), Oil on panel, 314 x 204,5, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica (Rome). This panel, which comes from a nave chapel (fifth to the left) in the church of Santa Maria in Vado in Ferrara, was removed to Rome after the devolution of the Duchy of Ferrara to the domains of the papacy in 1598. In the same group of paintings transported from Ferrara to Rome were the Deposition by Ortolano, now in the Galleria Borghese, and the altarpiece with the Madonna, St Anthony the Abbot and St Cecilia, now in the National Gallery at Palazzo Barberini. By 1612, the work had already been replaced by a copy commissioned to fill its place in the chapel. The original later entered into the celebrated collection of Cardinal Flavio Chigi. Vasari, who describes Garofolo's Ascension in his writings, considered it to be a fundamental work of this Ferrarese painter, who was closely connected to the church for which the painting was intended. Raphaelesque influences are evident here, especially when one compares Garofolo's work to Raphael's Transfiguration. Strong similarities exist between this work and other paintings by Garofalo dating to 1519-20, such as the 1520 Resurrection in the Archpretal church of Bondeno, and the 1519 Massacre of the Innocents ■

Y entonces uno se queda con la Iglesia, que me ofrece lo único que debe ofrecerme la Iglesia: el conocimiento de que ya estamos salvados –porque esa es la primera misión de la Iglesia, el anunciar la salvación gracias a Jesucristo- y el camino para alcanzar la alegría, pero sin exclusividades de buen pastor, a través de esa maravilla que es la confesión y los sacramentos. La Iglesia, sin partecitas.

laus deo virginique matris