Homily for the Solemnity of the Ascension of the LORD

Nine-year-old Charlie lived with his family in New York City.  One day Charlie and his father boarded a train at 111th Street to go downtown to his father's office.  When they got on the train, the father took Charlie over to the map and traced his finger along the blue line that showed the route of the train downtown.

Charlie's father explained how they would transfer at Delaney Street and how they would cross a bridge and then go underground.  Finally, he explained how the train would skip certain stops during rush hour.  Soon they arrived at the office. 

Charlie spent most of the morning meeting his father's friends and looking at magazines in his father's office.  Then just before noon, his father said to him, "Charlie, it's time for you to go home now."  Charlie's eyes widened.  His mouth dropped, and his face turned pale.  The thought of going home all by himself frightened him half to death.

His father walked him over to the station, put him on the train, patted him on the head, and said, "you'll be fine, Charlie.  Just follow the directions I gave you earlier."

Charlie was excited as the train leaped forward and roared out of the station.  But his excitement turned to fear when he noticed that the train skipped certain stops.  But then he remembered what his father said earlier about rush hour.  Soon the train disappeared underground.  Charlie's heart beat faster when he noticed how it twisted and turned.  He didn't remember doing that earlier.  Finally, the train emerged from the darkness and roared over the bridge.

Charlie was so nervous by now that he almost missed his transfer at Delaney Street.  But he managed to get off just in time.  Minutes later Charlie breathed a sigh of relief as he began to recognize familiar street numbers and finally, he saw 111th Street.  The train stopped, the doors opened, and Charlie stepped off.  He was so proud and so happy.  He had actually made it home all by himself.

What Charlie didn't know, however, was that his father was in the next car on the train, watching over him all the way.  He had been with him every foot of the trip, just in case he needed help.

The story of Charlie and his father bears a striking resemblance to the story of Jesus and His Church.  Before departing on Ascension Thursday, Jesus gave His Church all the directions we need to journey through life to our heavenly destination.  Like little Charlie, however, we sometimes notice the Church taking unexpected twists and turns.  And this sometimes alarms us.  When this happens, we should recall the story of Charlie.  We should also recall the promise of Jesus to be with us always on our journey through life.  Even though we can't see Him, we know Jesus is there, ready to help us, just in case the need arises.

And so, the Solemnity of the Ascension is a challenge and a consolation.  It's a challenge in the sense that it encourages us to follow the directions that Jesus gave us for the journey to our heavenly destination.  It's also a consolation in the sense that it reminds us that Jesus is with us every foot of the way, just in case we need help.  This is the message of today's solemnity.  This is the assurance that we celebrate today.  This is the good news of Ascension Thursday.  Jesus has not left us. Jesus is with us; His presence is abiding; His presence is forever.+

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