Sunday, May 28, 2017

Ascending over Manchester

Sermon for the Sunday in the Octave of the Ascension

“The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service.”

Our Lord is as true as ever He was. We look to what has happened in Manchester over this past week and we see yet another bombing in the service of a “god”.

How are you feeling about this terrible incident? What about the others you’ve seen in your lifetime? What’s your go-to feeling?

Outrage. Grief. Fury. Indignation. Fear.

These are not only justifiable, they are beautiful feelings to have.



There are those who say we should not grieve for the dead, but celebrate their life in joyful, yet sad remembrance. There are those who say that since the dead are with God, they are happy and we should not weep for them.

Yet, Jesus wept for Lazarus.

We hear Jesus say, “love your enemies” and yet the feeling of anger for those who murder the innocent wells up inside us like a volcano.

We want to do something, but it seems that we cannot.

How on earth can grief be beautiful? How on earth can our burning fury for the slaughterers of the innocent be seen as something exquisite?


The Disciples sit in confusion and grief as their Lord ascends into the heavens. Why are they in disarray? It is because they love Him tenderly: they hold Him, speak with Him, eat with Him, enjoy His presence. This grief at His Ascending is not the same as their grief at His death because they now have a greater, more tangible hope on what lies beyond this life. Yet their grief means something important. They grieve because they love.

As his mind is awakened by the Holy Ghost, St Peter is able to say, “The end of all things is at hand; be ye therefore sober, and watch unto prayer. And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.”

The source of our grief and of this wrath at the scenes of terrorism is love, and love is the most beautiful thing in existence. Yet it could so easily go the other way for, in the hands of Man the beautiful can be made so ugly. This is why St Peter urges us to be sober, not to become drunken with any emotion so as to act on that.

An emotion is the colour in the painting: once it takes over that painting, all form and meaning is lost in a canvas painted with but one colour. For that colour to contribute to the painting, it is limited by the picture. Thus we, too, must learn to train our emotions to fulfil the love of God.


Despite appearances, the Ascended Lord is there in Manchester, in the very being of every single person there – including the bomber. This is the shocking fact that God will not let evil have the upper hand. He will consecrate the whole situation for, behold, He does make all things new!
It is the job of the Church to be the means of grace. Our Lord ascends so that we can continue His work in our selves. We need to do this for ourselves so that we can possess the dignity that God gives us by giving us the very freedom to choose, a freedom that Evil seeks to destroy. We may sin, but this is not the end of the story. The end is at hand, and that End is God Himself. All the work we do here is a means to the End that is God Himself.

St Peter says, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God: if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”

It is our job to minister God’s grace. Our emotions and feelings need to be made to fit this task so that we are effective in bringing the love of God out of every horror.


In Manchester, God is there. Every act of charity, kindness, generosity, compassion that is shown negates any evil that sought to cause death. Far from destroying hope, it has contributed more. Just as the disciples grieve at Christ’s Ascension, they have the hope that they will be with Him in Eternity. Nothing can take that away from them.

Can it be taken away from us?

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