This year, the Feast of Ascension (Thursday May 13) is postponed to Sunday May 16 which is today. After the resurrection, Jesus taught his disciples about God’s kingdom for forty days (Acts 1:3) “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight” (Acts 1:9). Two angels then tell the disciples that Jesus was “taken into heaven” (Acts 1:11). But the ascended Jesus is still with us through his indwelling Holy Spirit as he has promised, “I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.” What is celebrated is Jesus’ exaltation and the end of his earthly existence as a prelude to the gift of the Spirit. Hence this feast is a celebration of Jesus’ final glorification after his suffering, death and Resurrection – a glory in which we also hope to share.
And yet, humanly speaking, the concept of bodily Ascension is a mystery that we cannot fully understand. Pope Francis doesn’t shy away from explaining mysteries of our faith. In his catechesis on Ascension, he says: “Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven thus allows us to know this reality that is so consoling on our journey: in Christ, true God and true man, our humanity has been brought to God. He has opened the way. He is like the leader of a mountain climbing party that is roped together. He has reached the summit and pulls us to himself, leading us to God. If we entrust our lives to him, if we let ourselves be guided by him, we are certain of being in safe hands.”
It is this assurance that allowed multitudes of Christians to follow Jesus, even to the point of martyrdom. St. Matthias, our parish patron, is one such. The Apostles felt that they had to replace Judas who betrayed Jesus. They nominated two men: Joseph Barsabbas and Matthias. They prayed and drew lots. The choice fell upon Matthias, who was added to the Eleven. (Acts 1:15-26). What happened after that? No exact historical details are available. According to Greek tradition, Matthias preached and converted the people of Cappadocia in central Turkey, and was martyred in the region about the Caspian Sea around the year 80 AD.
Every year, we used to have our great Carnival around the feast of St. Matthias. All of us are sad to miss that week of fun, games, food and celebration This year, we have been praying a Novena to St. Matthias for the past nine days leading up to his feast. Today as we celebrate our parish patronal feast, what is of importance is to remember that Matthias was chosen to be an apostle because he was with Jesus and was a witness to his resurrection. That means, following his example, we need to make greater efforts to know Jesus personally by our familiarity with God’s Word and by talking to Jesus daily in prayer or meditation. Thus we become witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus who is God-with-us always.
Happy Feast of St. Matthias!
Your brother in Christ,
Fr. Abraham Orapankal