My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
So today is Mother’s Day, so I want to wish all mothers a Happy Mother’s Day! You are in our prayers in a special way today and we thank you for your witness to love!
We pray especially for all the mothers and grandmothers that are here with us today, but also for the ones who are not here and for the ones who have gone before us to Heaven. And later on we have a special blessing for you all, and always a little gift to honor you as we celebrate this beautiful day of Mother’s Day.
I think it is beautiful that we do it during the month of May because May is Mary’s month — Mary our Blessed Mother, and she’s of course the mother of Jesus, the Mother of God.
And Mary’s month comes in the springtime of the year and it is beautiful for us to reflect on the love that our Blessed Mother showed in bringing Jesus into the world.
Mary is the model of fair love — the love of every mother. In every mother on earth, we see the reflection of our Blessed Mother who is in heaven.
So today we pray that our Blessed Mother Mary will shine her light on all mothers and on all of us, and help us to imitate her, and to help us this month of May to be more attentive of her example and increase our devotion to her.
And today, as I said, we are also, we know, we are celebrating the great mystery in the life of Jesus and the life of his Church — the mystery of his Ascension into heaven.
Today by his Ascension, God is making a wonderful promise to us — that where Jesus goes, we can go. Heaven can be our home, the end of our journey. If we follow him on earth, the path that we follow will lead us to heaven. This is the promise of today’s celebration, the Ascension.
But, as we know, the Ascension is not the end of the story of Jesus. His work on earth is finished, but the work of his Church has just begun. And the Church's work, my dear brothers and sisters, is our work — your work and mine.
Jesus is ascending into heaven today — and he is sending us out into the world.
In the first reading today, we heard his last words to his disciples — “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem …and to the ends of the earth.”
Those were his last words to his disciples — and they are his “first words” to us.
The Church’s mission started with the disciples in Jerusalem, and this mission continues with us today. You know, in a sense, that Los Angeles is at the “ends of the earth.” We are a long way from Jerusalem — the other side of the world, in a sense. But “witnesses” to Jesus came to this country — through the missionaries who first evangelized the new world of the Americas.
And it was interesting because this past Tuesday, I have the blessing of celebrating Mass in a little chapel of Santa Cruz Island, which is one of the Channel Islands. There is Mass in that chapel every year on May 3rd, because May 3rd is the all Feast of the Holy Cross, because the Island is named after the Holy Cross — Santa Cruz.
The first missionaries came to the Island in 1769, and the chapel was finished and the first Mass celebrated in 1891. As I was celebrating Mass, I was thinking of those words of Jesus to the Apostles before his Ascension: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.”
The Apostles went out and preached the Gospel, then the missionaries who came to California continued the mission, and now the Church’s mission keeps going — in your life and in mine.
Do you ever stop to think that we are saying the same prayer — the Our Father — that those first disciples prayed? That we received the same baptism and are celebrating the same Eucharist as they did? It’s really amazing.
So we all should share the same mission as those first Christians. The mission to be witnesses to Jesus.
I was just thinking of those missionaries coming to the New World and to Santa Cruz Island in a daring, beautiful way. That’s our mission too.
So my brothers and sisters, today, once again, Jesus is calling us. He has called us in Baptism and again in Confirmation. He has given us the gifts of his Holy Spirit to lead us and to guide us, and he is calling us to follow him.
Let us especially ask for the grace to be open to that call and, as always, saying yes.
So it’s interesting in the readings of today, how the Angels tell the disciples, after the Ascension — it’s always interesting to me to listen and reflect on these words: Why are you standing there looking at the sky? Like saying, “Let’s move,” you know? He’s telling us to preach the Gospel — “Go and do it!”
And these are words for us too. We know that heaven is where we are going, our destination. But before we can get there, we have to carry out our mission in this world.
So we are called to help our neighbors get to heaven. Why you standing there looking at the sky? We have to enlighten the hearts of our brothers and sisters, so they can see that God is real. So they can see that God has a plan of love for us, a place where he wants to take us.
That’s our mission.
Pope Francis said this morning at the Angelus in Rome, as he was talking about how we are called to be witnesses of the Resurrection. He said, “Every Sunday, we should leave our Churches to go during the week,” he said, “into houses, offices, schools, places of meetings and entertainments, into hospitals, prisons, retirement homes, the places packed with immigrants, the peripheries of cities.” He said, “This is the testimony we have to take every week: Christ is with us. Jesus ascended into Heaven but he is with us. Christ is alive!”
What a beautiful call for all of us, that every Sunday we come to Church we are with Jesus in Holy Communion, with the Father and the Son in the celebration of the Mass. And that we can renew our commitment to be missionary disciples in our time.
So, this week, let us try to live with joy and be good witnesses to Jesus in our families and in our work. Just carrying out daily responsibilities with love and living for Jesus.
And keep in mind that the Ascension does not mean that Jesus has left us alone: he’s with us, he’s alive. This is why those first disciples went home, after the Ascension, and they were filled with great joy — the same joy that we should have because we know that Jesus is with us.
They also knew that the life had a reason and a purpose — and my brothers and sisters, our life has the same reason, the same destination, the same joy!
And let us keep praying this week, as the disciples did, to receive the gifts of the Holy Spirit this coming Sunday at Pentecost.
And in this month of May, the month of Mary, let us ask our Blessed Mother to bless all mothers, and let us ask her to intercede for every person who is suffering and being persecuted for following Jesus, for being a witness to Christ.
1. Readings (Feast of the Ascension, Year C): Acts 1:1–11; Ps. 47:2–3, 6–9; Eph. 1:17–23; Luke 24:46–53.