Ossza Meg

Sunday of Ascension
Memorial of Our Lady of Sheshan, sanctuary nearby Shanghai in China. Prayer for Chinese Christians.


First Reading

Acts 1,1-11

In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. While at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. 'It is', he had said, 'what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but, not many days from now, you are going to be baptised with the Holy Spirit.' Now having met together, they asked him, 'Lord, has the time come for you to restore the kingdom to Israel?' He replied, 'It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will come on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to earth's remotest end.' As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky as he went, when suddenly two men in white were standing beside them, and they said, 'Why are you Galileans standing here looking into the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way as you have seen him go to heaven.'

Psalmody

Psalm 46

Antiphon

Shout to God with the voice of joy.

All peoples, clap your hands,
cry to God with shouts of joy!

For the Lord, the Most High, we must fear,
great king over all the earth.

He subdues peoples under us
and nations under our feet.

Our inheritance, our glory, is from him,
given to Jacob out of love.

God goes up with shouts of joy;
the Lord goes up with trumpet blast.

Sing praise for God, sing praise,
sing praise to our king, sing praise.

God is king of all the earth,
Sing praise with all your skill.

God is king over the nations;
God reigns on his holy throne.

The princes of the peoples are assembled
with the people of Abraham's God.

The rulers of the earth belong to God,
to God who reigns over all.

Second Reading

Ephesians 1,17-23

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, how rich is the glory of the heritage he offers among his holy people, and how extraordinarily great is the power that he has exercised for us believers; this accords with the strength of his power at work in Christ, the power which he exercised in raising him from the dead and enthroning him at his right hand, in heaven, far above every principality, ruling force, power or sovereignty, or any other name that can be named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet, and made him, as he is above all things, the head of the Church; which is his Body, the fullness of him who is filled, all in all.

Reading of the Gospel

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 28,16-20

Meanwhile the eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.'

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Homily

The evangelist Luke narrates the Ascension as the last step of Jesus' visible presence among the disciples. We could say that with the Ascension, Easter reaches its fulfilment. From that moment on, the disciples begin their journey through the world without the visible presence of Jesus. While they are walking with him towards Bethany, they ask, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" It was an important question for history. In that question, together with a righteous hope for the final and definitive salvation of the world, there was perhaps also hidden a desire not to have to struggle against difficulties, against the strength of evil in the world. But Jesus does not answer this question. He clarifies, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority." Like the disciples of that time, we often understand very little about life, and we often reduce it to our experiences. Jesus instead seems to be suggesting that life is much greater and more complex, and it certainly is not for us to know its times and periods! Still, the Lord does not leave the disciples in uncertainty, and promises them true strength, the power of the Holy Spirit: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you."
To "ascend into heaven" means entering a definitive relationship with God. The "heaven" of which Scripture speaks is a metaphor. It is as if to say: just as the heavens envelop the earth, so the Lord, by ascending into heaven, envelops us all. He is not going further away; he is coming closer to all. The disciples realize this and consequently are full of joy: "And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy." The apostles had understood that Jesus would be with them forever: "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20).
By affirming that Jesus goes up to the sanctuary of heaven, the Letter to the Hebrews suggests that the Holy Liturgy is the sanctuary in which the Lord welcomes us. During the Sunday holy liturgy, heaven and earth meet and we are all admitted into the presence of God to live again the mystery of Jesus. We should not keep looking at the heaven of our habits, but at human history: that is where the Lord makes himself present. The two angels said to the disciples, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven." It is an invitation to keep the eyes of our hearts fixed on the risen Jesus and his wounds. The Risen one is not a ghost, and his wounds are those of the men and women scarred by pain and violence. The Ascension tells us that the future prepared by God has already begun with his Son, the First Born. Being with Jesus means that in some way we have already entered heaven. Jesus is there fully: I am going to prepare a place for you, he says, "so that where I am, there you may be also." Heaven already begins on earth each time we gather in Jesus' name, each time we love each other as he loved us, each time we help the poor and consider them our brothers and sisters. We certainly are weak men and women, and we are still unbelieving, but the Spirit that the Lord pours out in our hearts makes us strong and capable of witnessing to his love to the ends of the earth.