Easter: May 24th
Solemnity of the Ascension or the Seventh Sunday of Easter
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At the end of His earthly life Jesus ascends triumphantly into heaven. The Church acclaims Him in His holy humanity, invited to sit on the Father's right hand and to share His glory. But Christ's Ascension is the pledge of our own. Filled with an immense hope, the Church looks up towards her leader, who precedes her into the heavenly home and takes her with Him in His own person: "for the Son of God, after incorporating in Himself those whom the devil's jealousy had banished from the earthly paradise, ascends again to His Father and takes them with Him" (St. Leo).
The ecclesiastical provinces of Boston, Hartford, New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and the State of Nebraska have retained the celebration of the Ascension of the Lord on the proper Thursday, while all other provinces have transferred this solemnity to today, the Seventh Sunday of Easter.
Click here for commentary on the readings in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.
The death of a member of his family or of a loved friend, must be the saddest event imaginable in the life of an atheist. He is one who really is convinced that there is no God, no future life and therefore that the relative or friend is to turn into dust in the grave, never to be met with again. The thought that every day that passes is bringing him too nearer to that same sad fate, death, which will be the end of all his ambitions, all his enjoyments, the end of everything he thought he was or had, must be something hard to live with.
Thank God, we have the good fortune to know, and reason and faith convince us of this truth, that death is not the end of man. It is rather the real beginning. Today's feast—the Ascension of our Lord in his human nature—to his Father's and our Father's home, is the confirmation and the guarantee of this doctrine of our faith. We shall all rise from the grave with new, glorified bodies and ascend to heaven, as Christ did. There we'll begin our true life of eternal happiness.
While it is true that even for good Christians the death of a beloved one is a cause of sorrow and tears, this is natural as we still are of the earth earthly. Yet the certitude that our beloved one has gone to his true life and will be there to meet us when our turn comes, is always at the back of our minds to console and comfort us. What all human beings want is to live on forever with our dear ones. Death breaks that continuity but only for a little while. That break is necessary for the new life to begin.
It is only in heaven that this natural desire of an unending life with all those we love can be realized and death on earth is the door to that eternal life.
Look up to heaven today. See Christ ascending to his Father and our Father. Say : Thank you, God, for creating me, and for giving me, through the Incarnation of your beloved Son, the possibility and the assurance that if I do my part here, when death comes it will not be an enemy but a friend, to speed me on my way to the true, supernatural life which you have, in your love, planned and prepared for me.
It was written, and foretold, that Christ should suffer and so enter into his glory. The servant is not above the Master. I too must suffer. I too must accept the hardships and the trials of this life, if I want, and I do, to enter into the life of glory. Christ, who was sinless, suffered hardship and pain. I have earned many, if not all of my hardships, by my own sins. I should be glad of the opportunity to make some atonement for my past offenses, by willingly accepting the crosses he sends me. These crosses are signs of God's interest in my true welfare. Through him he is giving me a chance to prepare myself for the day of reckoning, for the moment of my death which will decide my eternal future. For every prayer I say for success in life, I should say three for a successful death, a death free from sin and at peace with God.
—Excepted from The Sunday Readings, Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.
Highlights and Things to Do:
- We continue the novena to the Holy Spirit which is said between the feast of the Ascension and Pentecost Sunday.
Meditation: I Go to the Father
As we all know well, the Resurrection, Ascension and gift of the Holy Spirit are all one mystery looked at from different angles. The great mystery of reconciliation, the marriage between God and His creation, is split up for us in liturgical time to enable us to cope with it. The Ascension is not different from the Resurrection, rather we are asked to dwell on a partial aspect of the Resurrection.
The Ascension means essentially that Jesus is with His Father, "I go to the Father"; and this is His supreme joy, His goal, His reward. "If you loved me you would be full of joy because I am with my Father." Are we? With a joy that can supersede all subjective states of trouble and grief?
The first aspect of the Ascension is unalloyed joy that no man can take away from us. The Father at last has all He wants—an open heart into which He can pour His love without hindrance. Jesus is the recipient of that blissful love, and we rejoice in Him and for Him.
Secondly, Jesus has entered heaven as our pioneer. He has blazed a trail. More, He is our representative; in a real way we are there with Him. The great work of reconciliation has been accomplished. The massive dam walls that human beings, through their wrong choices, had built up against the love of God have been demolished. We have only to stand in the way of these flood waters and not fly from them as though fleeing from death.
"Abide in my love." How do we abide in His love? He tells: "If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, as it is by keeping my Father's commandments that abide in His love." What we have seen Jesus doing in relation to the Father, we must do. Jesus has shown us the Father and what the Father wants of us; has shown us how we must live to be in truth His children. We have to be living embodiments of Jesus as He is of His Father. And this, says Jesus, is my joy which you must share.
How the thought of the Ascension should lift our lives above our petty, selfish concerns, to live with Jesus where He is now—in the glory of the Father! That we are able to do this, able to enter into the mystery of Jesus, to receive His life and live by it, is the mystery of Pentecost.
Just as in Advent the Church invites us to assume the attitude of those to whom the Lord has not yet come, and to yearn for that coming, so now in the time between Ascension and Pentecost. We are invited to put ourselves with the waiting disciples. Our ardent willing must hasten the coming of the Spirit, the Power from on high, who will enable us to live the very life of Jesus.
Let us attend to Paul's exhortation:
With unflagging energy,
with ardour of spirit
serve the Lord.
Let hope keep you joyful,
In trouble stand firm,
Persist in prayer.
—Ruth Burrows, Through Him, With Him, In Him