“At times, by over-emphasizing our efforts to do good works, we have created an ideal of holiness excessively based on ourselves, our personal heroics, our capacity for renunciation, our readiness for self-sacrifice to achieve a reward… We have turned holiness into an unattainable goal. We have separated it from everyday life, instead of looking for it and embracing it in our daily routines, in the dust of the streets, in the trials of real life… Being disciples of Jesus and advancing on the path of holiness means first and foremost letting ourselves be transfigured by the power of God’s love. Let us never forget the primacy of God over self, of the Spirit over the flesh, of grace over works. For we at times give more importance to self, flesh and works.” Pope Francis
With Ascension Thursday, the Easter cycle ends. We celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit and our greeting of awe that “Christ is Risen” turns to praise: “Glory to Jesus Christ”! Perhaps now, because of russia’s invasion, we may hear “Glory to Ukraine” more often than to Jesus. And the two greetings are related.
Imagine the longing the disciples would have felt after seeing their Risen Lord leave. The fear, and emptiness would only be assuaged by staying within their community, with their loved ones. Only once they are filled with the Holy Spirit—God’s Spirit—can they carry Christ’s love and joy into the world. Only with the Spirit can they live as Jesus taught, see others as He saw them. Only with the Spirit could they recognize Him in each other and no longer mourn, but rather rejoice in what they had from Him. Thus, they were able to spread His Spirit and grow in strength and faith just as their community grew as well. “Glory to Jesus Christ”!
Today, we, as a Ukrainian Catholic community, support each other in growing in the strength of God’s love. Our Christian greeting: Glory to Jesus Christ reminds us of our commitment to each other and the joy and gratitude that flow from belonging, connection, support. “Glory to Ukraine” with its response Glory to our (courageous) heroes, in the same way connects us to each other and to the sacrifice of countless people who lost their lives in order for us to grow in our Ukrainian community. Through our solidarity with each other we make present the Risen Christ. Through Christ we grow in love for others, keeping the memory of our “heroes” alive in us, giving us the courage to reach out to each other—here in our church community—and beyond, seeing everyone as our sisters and brothers whether they are in KW or Ukraine.
The Covid pandemic has made it much harder to connect with each other here at our church. But this Sunday, for the first time in 2 years, we are having our Parish General Meeting in person. For a few Sundays we are able to meet after Liturgy for coffee. We can, once again, come together in person to grow in Christ, to grow in Love, and to wash the mud from our eyes, (as we heard in the Gospel last week), to see afresh through the eyes of God. As we reconnect with each other, we glorify not only Christ, but our heroes of Ukraine, looking to them to guide us in selfless service to others, bringing greater justice, love, and peace to our parish and to the world. Slava Isusu Chrystu! Slava Ukraini!