In the Catholic tradition when one is baptized they are given a “baptismal name.” The name is generally that of a Saint. These names serve as examples of holiness that point towards “the spiritual tradition and long history of the saints who have gone before [them] and whom the liturgy celebrates in the rhythms of the sanctoral cycle” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, Article 3, section 2030). The name points the bearer to the greater tradition they are a part of and shows how the Lord has worked through others before them. Similarly, when Churches are blessed or dedicated they are given a name that points to an example of holiness.
The example of holiness the has been bestowed upon our building and community is St. Philip the Apostle. St. Philip was a resident of Bethsaida of Galilee. It was here that Jesus found and commanded Philip to, “follow him” (John 1:43). Philip then does an extraordinary thing; he shares the news of Christ to another, Nathanael (John 1:45-46). He does not understand Jesus’s message yet, and probably has had little time to converse with him, but he has seen the Christ. Philip could play things safe and let Jesus continue to meet and command people to follow him. However, Philip surprises us, and does not let doubt and his lack of knowledge keep him from sharing about Christ.
This Sunday St. Philip’s will be celebrating the Ascension. The celebration of Ascension seems to be overlooked due to the events that precede and follow it. The deeply emotional journey of Holy Week that brings us to Easter and the thrilling event of the Pentecost are stories that deserve our attention. However, if we do not also celebrate the Ascension we will do harm to our understanding of these events.
Ascension helps us to complete the story of Easter. If we leave the story at Easter we leave Christ on earth and so also leave ourselves stranded there. The Catechism will help illuminate our situation, “Left to its own natural powers humanity does not have access to the “Father’s house”, to God’s life and happiness. Only Christ can open to man such access that we, his members, might have confidence that we too shall go where he, our Head and our Source, has preceded us” (Article 6, 661 of the Catechism). It is the Ascension that emphasizes that through our adoption in Christ we will reside with him in the kingdom of God.
It is this completed story of the Gospel that the apostles share during Pentecost and throughout their missionary journey. It is this complete Gospel we too must know and share. So come and let us join together this Ascension Sunday and give the Ascension the time and thought it requires.