Easter: May 21st
Solemnity of the Ascension or the Seventh Sunday of Easter
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 Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord on the proper Thursday, while all other provinces have transferred this solemnity for today, the Seventh Sunday of Easter.
The usual Optional Memorial of Christopher Magallanes & Companions is superseded by the Sunday Liturgy.
>>>Today is Day 4 of the Pentecost Novena to the Holy Spirit.<<<
Commentary on the Mass Readings for the Solemnity of the Ascension, Year A:
The First Reading is from Acts 1:1-11. St. Luke begins his second book, called Acts of the Apostles, with a brief description of our Lord's bodily ascension into heaven, after he had given his Apostles their final instructions. He identifies the exact location of this event as Mount Olivet, both here and in his gospel (24:50). The ascension or the return of Christ to heaven, in his human but glorified body, is the culmination, the sign and seal of the accomplishment of his salvific mission on earth. He, the Son of God, the second divine Person of the Blessed Trinity, became man, lived and died on this earth so that we men could live with God forever in heaven. By his death on the cross, he reconciled sinful man with his divine Creator. His human death earned for us a share in the divine life. His resurrection is the divine guarantee that we too shall rise again, and his ascension to the Father is the prelude to our entrance into God's everlasting kingdom.
The Second Reading is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians 1:17-23. St. Paul reminded the Ephesians nearly nineteen and a half centuries ago of the marvelous generosity and goodness of God who had made them Christians and sharers-to-be in the glory of Christ, which was the eternal glory of God. The words the Apostle wrote to those first converts were written for us also and are as applicable to us today as they were in the year 61 A.D. He prayed that God would enlighten their minds to try to understand and appreciate the marvelous things God had done for them through the Incarnation, death, resurrection and ascension of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
The Gospel is from Matthew 28:16-20, describing the ascension of Jesus. He gave to his Apostles and through them to their successors, the command the power to bring his message of salvation to all nations and peoples. That day on a hill in Galilee Christ foresaw each one of us here present as his future followers. It was then that the life-giving sacrament of Baptism which made us members of his Church—his mystical body on earth—was instituted. By means of it we were incorporated not only into the Church—the new people of God—but even into the divine family of the Blessed Trinity. We were made brothers of Christ and heirs to heaven.
—Excerpted from The Sunday Readings by Fr. Kevin O'Sullivan, O.F.M.
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