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Continuation and continuity

Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

The first reading for this Sunday is the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles.

Just as the beginning of the Gospel according to St. Luke helps us understand the historicity of the Gospels and their development in three stages, namely, the sayings and works of Jesus, oral tradition and finally the actual composition of the Gospels; in the opening verses of the book of Acts the intention of St. Luke becomes patently manifest.

The two volumes of his work, the Gospel and Acts were elaborated as a literary unit. In fact, his Gospel ends with a narration of the Ascension of the Lord albeit more succinct that the one we find in the first reading for this Sunday yet bridging both volumes.

St. Luke endeavors to show that it is impossible to separate the Church from Christ, her Lord, her Teacher, her Founder, the one who gives life to her, since the action of the disciples is both a continuation of the redeeming work of the Lord and in continuity with Him.

The Church established by the Lord under the guidance and care of the apostles has a specific and concrete goal. Animated by the Spirit that will be poured on the apostles during Pentecost, she is to put out into the deep waters of history to proclaim the Good News of Christ Jesus and lead all to an encounter with Him.

Both in the conclusion of the Gospel according to St. Luke and in the narration of the Ascension in the beginning of Acts, Jesus Christ, Risen from the dead, gives a missionary mandate to the nascent Church. We also see it in the conclusion of the Gospel according to St. Mark proclaimed this Sunday: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”

The Church must not proclaim herself, the disciples do not occupy center stage, but Christ. Everything in the Church ought to be ordered to the proclamation of God who is love, who became incarnate, suffered, died and rose from the dead. As Pope Benedict taught us, “those who draw near to God do not withdraw from men, but rather become truly close to them,” love them, wish good upon them. There is no greater good for a person than to have an encounter with the Risen Lord.

The work of the disciples is in continuity with the work of Christ. He is the only Redeemer who comes so close to the creature that he even assumes our common human nature. The salvation offered to us, proclaimed by the Church, realized by the sacraments, is exclusively by Christ. By his Death and Resurrection, He has achieved our redemption. Eternal life is offered to us in Him and through Him. No human or ecclesiastical mediation makes any sense separated from Christ. As Pope Francis often reminds us, the Church without Christ Dead and Risen would be a pious NGO but it is certainly not the Catholic Church, because it is Jesus Christ who makes the Church.

When we say that we are Church, we ought to remember always that we are so by virtue of our Baptism that has configured us to Christ. Therefore, the Church is not an association whose bylaws emerge from the consent of the members. It is not a deliberative body either or a mere community of people. The Church is the people of God governed by Peter in the name of Christ, animated by the Spirit, walking in communion towards the final and definitive encounter with her Lord, towards the consummation of our personal history and that of the universe in God Himself.

Our incorporation to the Church is by Baptism. Now, to the extent that we grow in holiness, we deepen our communion with Christ, and, in a certain sense, we become more the Church. Although all the baptized are members of the Church, clearly a holy religious, a lay person who makes every effort to live a life of grace, are more the Church than a priest who is an occasion of scandal or an unremorseful sinner because they are more fully configured to Christ and because of that they evidence the continuity that exists between the redemption brought by Christ and the life of the Church.

The work of the disciples is also a continuation of the redemptive work of the Lord who wishes to be known by all and that all, absolutely everybody, may come to enjoy the fullness of life offered to us in Him. Thus, the missionary work of the Church, which is not proselytism. The Church announces Christ so that all may come to encounter Him, open their hearts to grace offered in Him to us and walk down a path of holiness, a path that leads to true and lasting happiness and eternal communion with the God who is Three and One.

 

P.S. On May 12,1926 the bishop of St. Augustine erected canonically (established according to Church Law) our parish. In two years, we will celebrate the centennial of St. Patrick in Miami Beach, the same year when this nation will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. I invite you to think about how to celebrate this momentous event as a community of faith and renew our commitment with our proclamation and service to Miami Beach and visitors.

 

Fr. Roberto M. Cid