Solemnity of the Ascension

13 May 2024

Appears in: Messages and Homilies

Solemnity of the Ascension

Pastoral Visit to St. Vital Parish


[Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 4:1-13; Mark 16:15-20]

It is a blessing for me to have this occasion for a pastoral visit to your parish. (It is a particular joy to learn that your pastor, Fr. Les, is still going to church.) During a pastoral visit, I like to focus upon the mission you all share as members of this parish. Today, I invite us to ponder this with reference to your beautiful church.

Since it was dedicated, this building has been a landmark in Beaumont. I have always enjoyed travelling south on 50th Street out of the city and having my first glance of it. The church has served over the years, and still does today, as a reference point for travellers seeking to know the way. As this beautiful edifice stands out against the horizon, people can take their bearings and determine their direction.

On this Solemnity of the Ascension, the Church proclaims Jesus Christ as the world’s landmark, indeed, the one necessary signpost for all of humanity. As he rises above the earth and ascends to heaven, Jesus stands out clearly against the horizon of history. He is the reliable reference point that properly situates us on our earthly pilgrimage, enabling us to find our bearings. Moreover, he not only points the way toward our ultimate destination – eternal life – but also is himself that way.

In a world that has lost its direction in multiple ways, our call, as followers of the Lord, is to point to Jesus Christ as humanity’s foundational reference point. With nations at war, societies in disarray, and families in discord, no one can doubt the urgent need to respond faithfully to our vocation. The scriptural texts for this solemnity call us, as Christians, to stand out against the horizon of human thought and action in order to direct the attention of everyone to Jesus.

How do we do this? Well, our first duty as Christians is articulated by Jesus himself: “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” We point to Christ by speaking of him. At times, our speech will involve words. In other moments, we testify to Christ through silent witness by the way we live, doing that which is commanded by Christ, and refusing to do that which is contrary to the Gospel. I think, here, of your patron saint, St. Vital, the first-century martyr. He laid down his life rather than worship false gods. Well, there are many erroneous and illusory deities in our day. We point to Christ whenever, out of fidelity to our Lord, we refuse to bow down to them. In our country, this will not likely involve martyrdom, but it does call for self-sacrifice.

This brings me to Saint Paul, who today teaches that we point to Christ through the self-sacrifice involved in sharing our gifts with one another. He says: “The gifts [God] gave were that some would be Apostles, some Prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…” By placing our gifts at the service of one another and thus building up the church and its mission, we become, as a community, a signpost that points to Jesus Christ.

It is evident that there is a lot of gift-sharing happening here, and has been for some time. To refer again to this building, not only is it visible from far away, but also it has been endowed with a beautiful interior that lifts the soul toward the transcendent. Clearly, the parish members involved in its planning, visioning, development, and maintenance appreciated the beauty of the Catholic faith, and knew it needed to be reflected in the splendour of their church’s design.

That appreciation continues in the parishioners of today. Beautiful liturgy in a worthy environment takes many dedicated people sharing their time, talent, and treasure. It is also evident in the many parishioners who recognize that the worship of God impels us to love and service of one another: in faith formation activities; in communal support through the CWL or Knights of Columbus; in the careful accompaniment of our youth; in the relationships you develop with the schools associated with the parish; and in the various forms of outreach to the needy or homebound, such as to the residents of Chateau Vitaline.

So, thank you! I am glad to express to Fr. Les, and to each and every one of you, my heartfelt gratitude for your service to this parish. You form a spiritual landmark that points to Jesus. By his ascension, Jesus reveals to all of humanity its ultimate destiny and demonstrates that he alone is the One who fulfills it for us all. Our world needs Jesus Christ; it always has and it always will. We have the blessed and joyful duty of pointing to him by the witness of our lives.

In our celebration of the Eucharist this morning, may our Heavenly Father bless us all with renewed zeal for directing the attention of everyone to our Risen and Ascended Lord, the world’s one sure landmark.

Most Reverend Richard W. Smith

Saint Vital Parish, Beaumont, Alberta

May 11th – 12th, 2024