FIRST READING (As the Apostles were looking on, Jesus was lifted up.)
A reading from the Acts of the Apostles (1:1-11)
In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM (47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9)
God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord. (Ps 47:6)
All you peoples, clap your hands, shout to God with cries of gladness; for the Lord, the Most High, the awesome, is the great king over all the earth. (R)
God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy; the Lord, amid trumpet blasts. Sing praise to God, sing praise; sing praise to our king, sing praise. (R)
For king of all the earth is God; sing hymns of praise. God reigns over the nations, God sits upon his holy throne. (R)
SECOND READING (God seated Jesus at his right hand in the heavens.)
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians (1:17-23)
Brothers and sisters: May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things beneath Christ’s feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way. —The Word of the Lord.
R. Thanks be to God.
GOSPEL ACCLAMATION (Mt 28:19a, 20b)
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Go and teach all nations, says the Lord; I am with you always, until the end of the world. (R)
GOSPEL (All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.)
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew (28:16-20)
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” —The Gospel of the Lord.
R. Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
“Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations!”
The celebration of the Solemnity of the Ascension sometimes feels anti-climatic in the Easter Season. Our churches are traditionally filled for the celebration of Easter but fewer come regularly for this celebration of the Ascension. And yet, each time we recite the Nicene Creed, we affirm “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” The mystery of the Ascension is found in our creedal formula because it proclaims some powerful truths.
Both the first reading and the Gospel speak to the Ascension as Jesus’ return to the Father and to the Father’s glory, and what this means for the human race. The Ascension reminds us how Christ cannot be captured by any one nation, or culture, or time, or language. Rather, we can discover the Lord in any language; the Lord is part of all cultures. As our second reading today states: “He fills the universe in all its parts.” And so, the first meaning for us of the Ascension is that Jesus is the universal Lord of all. Every land and nation, every part of the world and creation comes within his redeeming, healing embrace.
The meaning of today’s Feast of the Ascension is found outside of human history. Yet, its implications touch the lives of all believers. Jesus leaves in a dramatic way, enveloped by the cloud to emphasize that from now on He will be with us in a new kind of way, not visually but in His spiritual, sacramental presence.
Our experience of Christ can never be like that of the apostles and disciples who saw Him, who touched Him, who ate with Him. The apostles had experienced Christ as a man, like themselves min everything but sin. They saw that Christ, in his earthly life, had to depend in a real way – as we do also – on faith, and on his ability to trust that God would somehow give meaning to everything in his life. The humanity of Christ is sometimes difficult for us to fully appreciate and understand. We must keep in mind that the path that led Christ to the mount of the Ascension was as lined with doubt and misgivings and insecurity as is our own journey. But he countered all of those misgivings in the only way a human being can…. WITH TRUST – and with Faith that God can see what we cannot; with faith that there is a point to what seems pointless in our lives, simply because God says there is. Christ was, after all, like us in all things … but sin. And if he is like us, then that also means that we are like him.
Our experience of the Lord is the same as billions who through over 20 centuries have not seen Jesus with our eyes, but have had real contact with Christ through faith, through the sacraments, through prayer, and through the life of the Church. This is the result of the GREAT COMMISSION in today’s Gospel – to spread the Gospel, the Good News. Through this GREAT COMMISSION people of every land and nation can encounter Jesus through the life of the Church and through our faith and our witness, through our hopes and our convictions, through the love we share grounded in the love given to us by Christ. He is with us with the same redeeming power and cleansing love as He was with the Apostles, but in a different way.
And so, the Ascension is not just about Jesus, but also about us. Where Jesus is now, we hope someday to be. “I am going to prepare a place for you,” says the Lord. Although the life journey of each of us is different, our destination is the same – union with God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
For some people, that journey may be short; for others long. The journey may contain pain, sorrow and suffering. The journey can be challenging, filled with obstacles and demanding, especially in these months of the pandemic. But we should be united and consoled knowing that we are all striving to arrive at the same destination. Jesus ascends to the glory of the Father, and that same glorious future is ours, if we are faithful. Just as with the Resurrection, the Ascension of Christ is both a revelation about himself and a promise made to all of us, his people.
Our life here on earth does not fully define who we are. It is not a complete picture. It is not the whole truth. We have an immense glory ahead of us: to be where Jesus is. Heaven is the place for which we strive and yearn in so many subtle ways. St. Thomas Aquinas called it the patria – our true homeland. Where Jesus now is, we hope someday to be.
Because Jesus returned to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit, He is now close to every one of us. That is why, after the Ascension, the Apostles returned to the Temple praising God, and that is why we are gather each Sunday to worship and pray. The Ascension is not about absence but about the new, spiritual presence of Christ to all of us, wherever we are, through the Holy Spirit. Now, the Risen Jesus is as close to us as the beating of our heart. Even separated from our parishes, he is with us.
The Ascension means that Jesus is gone from our sight, but not gone from our life. The message of the Ascension is a simple one.
Christ’s promises will be fulfilled and we, too, shall be covered with the glory of God. Remember his promise: “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Celebrant: When Jesus our risen Savior ascended into heaven, angels reminded his disciples that he would come back again. Until he comes, one way that we continue his work is through praying for all peoples and their needs.
READER: For the whole church, deriving life from the witness of the first apostles, that we may continue their work of preaching repentance and mercy to all the nations for the forgiveness of sins, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That world leaders may realize that they must give an account of their work to Christ Jesus when he returns as our judge, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That no one will be so attached to this earth as to regret being called to eternal life in heaven, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: That we may all come to the maturity of faith in the fullness of the risen Christ, and nurture true Christian hope during these difficult days, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
READER: For all the members of our community, living and deceased, as well as for all those who have asked for our prayers, that the Lord bless them all with grace, courage, light and peace, (Pause) LET US PRAY TO THE LORD.
CELEBRANT: God our Father in heaven, your Son is now seated at your right hand, enthroned in eternal glory. We make our petitions through him, who lives and reigns, for ever and ever. (all) AMEN.