The Enduring Power of the Ascension
This past Thursday we celebrated the
Ascension of the Lord
yes, in New Jersey it still is observed as a holyday of obligation on Thursday!
) a mystery of our faith: Jesus ascended - body and spirit - into Heaven.
So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they [the Apostles] went forth and preached everywhere while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs
So ends the Gospel according to St. Mark. It is particularly important to notice two events tied together here: the Ascension of Jesus and the beginning of the spread of the Good News. In this way we see the Ascension being both an ending and a beginning: the end of Jesus' ministry on earth and the starting point for the
the second coming of Christ. While having several interpretations among Protestant communities, the Catholic Church says this about the event:
"Since the Ascension God's plan has entered into its fulfillment. We are already at 'the last hour'. Already the final age of the world is with us, and the renewal of the world is irrevocably under way; it is even now anticipated in a certain real way, for the Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real but imperfect. Christ's kingdom already manifests its presence through the miraculous signs that attend its proclamation by the Church" (
Catechism of the Catholic Church
). During the present time the Risen Lord returns in the Holy Spirit, who accomplishes the working out of the richness of the time of Christ.
This interpretation makes it impossible to try and predict when Christ will return. Jesus himself turned aside such questions about when it would occur because they reduced the second Coming to just another event. But, since the Lord in his risen body is always involved in time and the history of his Church, his Coming is always close at hand: the "already but not yet" mystery of the Kingdom of Heaven.
This also means that the teachings of Jesus, contrary to the likings or opinions of the world, do not change: "Heaven and earth will pass but my words will not pass" (Mt. 24:335; Mk. 13:31, Lk. 21:33). This is noted by
St. John Chrysostom
, the fourth century "Golden-mouthed" bishop of Constantinople and one of the four Greek Doctors of the Church, when he wrote: "After the glory of his Ascension he will be seen as judge on the Last Day, and even now judges all things, and at the end of the world he will come as judge of humanity."
The Ascension emphasizes the divine power of Christ, who at the same time remains fully human. This is important for us to remember because, in his humanity as well as in his divinity, Jesus sits now at his Father's right hand and one day we will stand before him: both individually at our own particular Judgment as well as at the parousia when he judges all of Creation - it will be impossible to rationalize away our sinfulness.
But there is also a great note of hope. As
St. Leo the Great
, fifth century pope and Doctor of the Church, said during his homily on the Ascension in 450 said: "Since the Ascension is our uplifting, and where the glory of our Head shall go, there the hope of the Body is called, let us then rejoice exceedingly with fitting joy. For this day, not only are we made sure heirs of paradise, but in Christ we have already reached the heights of heaven and obtained more abundant gifts through the ineffable favor of Christ than we lost through the envy of the devil."
In these days between the Ascension - as Jesus ended his earthly ministry, and Pentecost - as the Holy Spirit empowered us to continue that ministry, we are invited to take the opportunity in looking both backward and forward. How well have we familiarized ourselves with the teachings of Jesus and applied them in our lives? How can we improve upon the strengths we have been given to witness and have we asked Jesus to help us and heal our weaknesses? Are we doing all we can - in both prayer and action - so that we and those around us can see the time of our judgement before Christ, not as an occasion of anguish, but one of joy?
Of course, we couldn't forget this weekend is Mother's Day!
We thank you, Creator of us all, for our mothers.
I thank you that she gave me life and nurtured me all those years. She gave me my faith, helping me to know you and to know Jesus and his ways. She taught me how to love and how to sacrifice for others. She taught me that it was okay to cry and that I should always tell the truth.
Bless her with the graces she needs and which you want to give her. Help her to feel precious in your eyes and to know that I love her. Give her strength and courage, compassion and peace.
For those who have died
:] Lord, I know my mother still loves us who are still here on earth. I ask you that you might listen to her fervent prayers for us. Help me to grow into a new and deeper relationship with my mother now, as I long for the day when we will both meet in your embrace - freed from all that might have hindered our relationship on earth, knowing and understanding everything we did not know or understand on this earth.
Bless her and all mothers this day with your love. Amen.
Christ's Ascension marks the definitive entrance of Jesus' humanity into God's heavenly domain, whence he will come again (cf. Acts 1:11); this humanity in the meantime hides him from the eyes of men (cf. Col 3:3).
Catechism of the Catholic Church, 665
Our FORMED Recommendation for the Week
Movie (2 hours 41 minutes) -
Mary of Nazareth
Mary of Nazareth
is an epic motion picture on the life of Mary, Mother of Christ, from her childhood through the Resurrection of Jesus. Shot in high definition, it was filmed in Europe with outstanding cinematography, a strong cast, and a majestic music score. Actress Alissa Jung gives a beautiful, compelling, and inspiring portrayal of Mary. The film vividly captures the essence of Mary’s profound faith and trust in God amidst the great mysteries that she lived with as the Mother of the Messiah, as well as her compassionate humanity and concern for others, and the deep love that she and Jesus shared for one another. The movie underscores her special role in God’s plan for our redemption, her unique relationship with Christ, and the tremendous suffering that she endured in union with his Passion and Death, as well as her serene joy at his Resurrection.
This movie is not rated, but was created with an adult audience in mind. It may contain violence indicative of the life and times of the saint or character portrayed. We would recommend Parental Guidance and that parents preview it before watching with children.
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Sent by Fr. Ed Blanchett on Friday, May 11 at 3:00PM