Ascension of the Lord, Cycle C (2)

After forty days of being with the disciples after his Resurrection, which we have celebrated during these forty days of the Easter season, Jesus has crossed into Heaven to take his place at the Father’s right hand, as the prophecies foretold for the Messiah. The Father has crowned him with the glory he merited by his Passion, Death, and Resurrection, and in turn he is eternally asking the Father for each of us–by name–to receive the graces we need to join him one day in eternity and to help others get there too.

In today’s First Reading Saint Luke recalls why he decided to make his writings a two-volume set. The work of salvation is not done until everyone has an opportunity to be saved. The Lord’s Ascension is just as important for the Church as his Incarnation, Passion, Death, and Resurrection. Like the disciples in today’s First Reading, we are awaiting the Lord’s return in glory, but we also know that in Ascending to Heaven he is not just sitting up there on his hands. He and the Father are preparing to send the Holy Spirit to his Church, just as we await on Pentecost Sunday a week and a half from now, and then our part in his saving work goes into high gear, as attested to by the Acts of the Apostles. Our Lord also speaks on our behalf to the Father for all eternity, interceding for us. We need the whole Trinity’s help in fulfilling our mission throughout history: to help Our Lord in Heaven to continue his saving work on earth.

In today’s Second Reading St. Paul reminds what Our Lord won through his victory over sin and death. The Lord returns to Heaven in glory for what he suffered and endured for us. Taking his place at the Father’s right hand is taking the highest place of honor next to the Father’s, not only as his Son, but as his Son who has pleased him. Our Lord does not just receive glory. He receives reward as well. Even as he was preparing to ascend he told his disciples that all authority had been given to him by his Father (see Matthew 28:18). He doesn’t just rest on his laurels. He puts that influence to work for us and our efforts to help share his Gospel with the whole world.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord imparts a blessing even as he is taken up into Heaven. He doesn’t stop imparting blessings, even today. In a little over a week he’ll impart once again the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. The Easter season is longer than any other season except for Ordinary Time, and before his Ascension the days he spent, risen from the dead, were some of the most precious on earth for his faithful disciples. It was quality time just for them. He’s looking forward to spending that quality time with us in Heaven, and from eternity he is doing everything in his power to make sure that happens. As the Easter season nears its conclusion in ten days we too should be rejoicing as we recall all the blessings he has imparted to us during these forty days. We should also rejoice over the blessings to come.

If you don’t feel you’ve received any special blessings this Lent and Easter it may be that you are not looking hard enough. Eighty-six days (from Ash Wednesday to Ascension Thursday) is a long time to have not received anything special from Our Lord. The Holy Spirit is already around. Ask the Spirit to help you recall the blessings you’ve received in these days so that the joy you’ve experienced this Easter season continues throughout the year.

Readings: Acts 1:1–11; Psalm 47:2–3, 6–9; Ephesians 1:17–23; Luke 24:46–53. See also Ascension of the Lord, Cycle C and Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.

Solemnity of the Ascension, Cycle B

Our Lord has ascended into Heaven to sit at the Father’s right hand, but before he goes he makes sure we know that his mission is now our mission, and promises that the Holy Spirit will help us, a fact that we’ll celebrate soon on Pentecost.

In today’s First Reading Saint Luke reminds us that with Our Lord’s Ascension our chapter as Church of helping salvation history to continue begins. It’s not by chance that Saint Luke wrote two books: when Our Lord’s work on earth concludes, his earthly ministry, the Gospel as the story of what Our Savior said and did during his earthly lifetime—from Incarnation to Ascension—ends. As the events of the Gospel end, ours begin.

Saint Luke begins the Acts of the Apostles with a recap of what happened in Our Lord’s earthly life before launching into how the Church took up Our Lord’s mission and continues to carry it out. The Apostles didn’t act right away. Our Lord took the lead during his earthly ministry, but also promised them the help of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is poured out in a special way to help the Apostles take the lead now. Ascension is followed by Pentecost, the day the Easter season draws to a close. The Lord is Risen and Ascended and now it’s time for us to take up the work.

In today’s Second Reading St. Paul prays that we have everything we need to carry out Our Lord’s mission. We need wisdom and revelation, and the Spirit gives us the wisdom and revelation to know God. We need the insight of an enlightened heart to know that which is truly worthy of how hope and how wonderful it is. An enlightened heart also believes in the power of God, the power that raised his Son from the dead and set him above all things, including his Church. We may be taking up Our Lord’s mission, but Our Lord is still in charge in a vital and intimate way, just as a head is vital to the whole body, ensuring its health and growth.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord makes it clear that the work is just beginning. In today’s First Reading the Apostles seem confused, thinking the work is over, but the Lord makes it clear that there is a lot of work to do. The stakes are high: people need something to believe in, and just as Our Lord came so we could believe in him, we must go out and invite others to believe in him as well. There was a whole world that did not know Our Lord, and even today too many don’t know him. Our Lord wants to reach them through us.

Our Lord has Ascended. He intercedes for us and directs us from the right hand of the Father, but he is now counting on us to spread the faith. Have you spread the faith with your family, your friends, your co-workers? There are many people in our world who don’t truly know Our Lord and live incomplete lives. We can help them to live.

Readings: Acts 1:1–11; Psalm 47:2–3, 6–9; Ephesians 1:17–23; Mark 16:15–20.

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Ascension of the Lord, Cycle A

Today we’re celebrating Christ going home to Heaven. His mission on earth is accomplished. The angels are cheering at his return. The souls that were waiting for many years, since the beginning of human history, for Jesus to come and re-open the way to Heaven are celebrating too from their new and eternal home.

We are also thanking Jesus for the first thing that he did, and now continues to do, as soon as he got back to Heaven. Jesus is now at His Father’s right hand forever, asking him to help us get to Heaven too, and everyone we love. Like Jesus promised at the Last Supper, he and the Father are sending the Holy Spirit to help us get home by bringing us grace. Christ has ascended and now the disciples are waiting for the “whoosh” of the Holy Spirit.

In today’s First Reading the disciples are still confused and have doubts, even though they’ve seen that Jesus has risen from the dead. They were expecting, like all of Israel expected, one big whoosh right away: they thought the Kingdom of Heaven was coming right now. They were waiting for one last bang and for everyone to be in Heaven and evil to be ended. They ask Jesus when it’s going to happen. Jesus answers: wait for the Holy Spirit to come, and they still didn’t get it, which is why the angels have to tell them to move on. When Jesus tells them it’s not for them to know the times or seasons, he’s teaching them what the whoosh of the Holy Spirit is like: unexpected and big. The disciples thought there’d be one big whoosh and everyone would be in Heaven. Jesus is telling them to hold on to and be ready for the whoosh.

In today’s Second Reading St. Paul prays that we too receive this “whoosh” of the Holy Spirit when Christ arrives home. This “whoosh” will bestow on us wisdom and revelation, not just on the level of knowledge, but in our hearts as well. Paul describes well where Our Lord is headed today: to his Father’s right hand, where he’ll be put in charge of all things and be above all other powers. It also says he’s being given to us, the Church, as head over all things.

In today’s Gospel Our Lord prepares the disciples, and us, for Pentecost. He may be ascending soon, but the Holy Spirit is coming in force. In the Gospel today, and for the rest of this week [or ten days], we’re waiting for that first big whoosh of the Holy Spirit that came to the Church on Pentecost, which is what we’ll celebrate on [Pentecost] Sunday. Jesus tells the Apostles to go out and baptize the whole world. When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit whooshed down on him. Whenever we receive the sacraments, whenever we pray, and whenever we love each other the same thing happens to us. The Holy Spirit also fulfills the promise Jesus made in the Gospel today: by the power of the Holy Spirit the bread and wine today in Mass will become the Eucharist – the Body and Blood of Christ – and Jesus will stay with us in the Eucharist “until the end of the age” when he will return with the last big whoosh that will bring us all home to Heaven.

The two men dressed in white in today’s First Reading are asking us the same thing today that they asked the Apostles, “why are you standing there?” Waiting for the whoosh doesn’t mean standing around and doing nothing. The Apostles were active as they waited. They didn’t know when the moment of grace, the whoosh, would come, but they knew they had to continue to do Our Lord’s will. He promised them power when the Holy Spirit came, but they were already at work. Sometimes we don’t want to do anything until we perceive a whoosh: a boost of grace, some insight into Our Lord’s will. We must remember that, in faith, we know the floodgate of grace is open and we are being soaked in it. He’s given us the sacraments, the Scriptures, and the help of the Church. We have plenty of grace to get to work.

Readings: Acts 1:1–11; Psalm 47:2–3, 6–9; Ephesians 1:17–23; Matthew 28:16–20.

Ascension of the Lord, Cycle C

After a period of forty days, commemorated by the 40 days of the Easter season, the Risen Lord ascends into Heaven today and invites his disciples to look toward the future and to look toward the mission he has entrusted to them. He’s promised to send them the Holy Spirit in order to help them fulfill their mission, and now we too begin our wait for Pentecost after living the joy of the Risen Lord during the Easter season.

We rejoice because those disciples, asked to be witnesses to the “ends of the earth” reached our end of the earth too. Our Lord has taken his place at the right hand of the Father and even now watches over us from Heaven and intercedes for us as we continue the disciples’ mission to give witness to him to the ends of the earth. We too must preach with joy, as the Lord commands in today’s Gospel, repentance for the forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name. For the disciples it started in Jerusalem; for us it starts in our homes, our schools, our society, and there are still many people who’ve not heard our testimony or the testimony of any other believer.

The ten day’s wait for Pentecost has begun. Let’s pray in these days to see where we should give witness so that on Pentecost Sunday we too are “clothed” with the power we need to extend the Gospel with joy to the ends of the earth.

Readings: Acts 1:1–11; Psalm 47:2–3, 6–9; Ephesians 1:17–23; Luke 24:46–53. See also Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.