Thursday, May 9, 2024

The Ascension of the Lord: I Go To Prepare A Mansion

The Ascension of the Lord: A Reflection on its Significance and Celebration

The Ascension of the Lord is a profound Christian feast that commemorates Jesus Christ's bodily ascent to heaven in the presence of His apostles, occurring 40 days after the resurrection. This event marks a pivotal moment in Christian theology, symbolizing the completion of Christ's earthly mission and the glorification of His divine nature.

According to the New Testament, particularly in the Acts of the Apostles (1:9-11), after Jesus' resurrection, He appeared to His disciples, teaching them and speaking of the kingdom of God. On the day of His ascension, He blessed them and was lifted up before their eyes, disappearing into a cloud, signifying His return to the Father and His inauguration as the eternal high priest, interceding on behalf of humanity.

The Ascension is not merely a historical event but also a theological milestone that has significant implications for Christian faith and practice. It affirms Jesus' divinity, His triumph over death, and His promise of the Holy Spirit to empower the apostles for their mission. It also assures believers of the hope of their own ascension and eternal life in the presence of God.

The celebration of the Ascension varies among different Christian denominations. In the Catholic Church, Ascension Day is traditionally observed on a Thursday, the fortieth day after Easter Sunday. However, in many regions, the solemnity is transferred to the following Sunday to allow more faithful to participate in the commemoration.

The liturgy on Ascension Day is rich with symbolism and meaning. The readings from Scripture recount the events of Jesus' ascension and His final instructions to His disciples. The prayers and hymns express joy and hope, acknowledging Christ's kingship and His abiding presence through the Church and the sacraments.

In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Ascension is also celebrated with great solemnity, often including an all-night vigil and the blessing of bread and wine, which are distributed to the congregation as a reminder of Christ's enduring presence.

The Ascension invites Christians to reflect on the mystery of Jesus' departure from earth and His ongoing presence in the Church. It is a time to renew faith in the promises of Christ, to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and to commit to the mission of spreading the Gospel to all nations.

As believers around the world observe the Ascension of the Lord, they are reminded of the words of the angels to the apostles, "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" (Acts 1:11). This assurance fuels the Christian hope for the second coming of Christ and the fulfillment of God's plan for salvation.

The Ascension of the Lord is not only a historical event to be remembered; it is a living reality that continues to inspire and shape the life of the Church. It calls upon the faithful to live with an awareness of Christ's heavenly reign and to work diligently for the coming of His kingdom on earth as it is in heaven. As the liturgical year progresses, the Ascension leads into the celebration of Pentecost, where the gift of the Holy Spirit empowers the Church to carry on the mission entrusted by Christ.

For Year B in the Catholic Mass, the readings for the Ascension of the Lord provide a rich tapestry of scriptural insight and inspiration. The first reading is typically from the Acts of the Apostles (ACTS 1:1-11), where Luke recounts the final moments of Jesus with his disciples and his ascension into heaven. This passage emphasizes the promise of the Holy Spirit and the mission of the apostles to be witnesses to the ends of the earth.

The Responsorial Psalm (Psalms 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9) echoes the theme of God's kingship and sovereignty, with the refrain "God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord." It is a psalm of praise that celebrates God's rule over the earth and his ascension to his throne.

The second reading offers options from the Letter to the Ephesians. Ephesians 1:17-23 speaks of the hope and inheritance that believers have in Christ, emphasizing the power of God that raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand. Alternatively, Ephesians 4:1-13 (or the shorter form, Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13) focuses on unity in the body of Christ and the diversity of gifts given for the building up of the church.

The Gospel reading for Year B comes from Mark (Mark 16:15-20), where Jesus gives the Great Commission to his disciples, instructing them to go into the world and preach the gospel to all creation. It concludes with Jesus' ascension and the disciples going forth to proclaim the message, accompanied by signs.

These readings collectively underscore the central themes of mission, empowerment by the Holy Spirit, and the exaltation of Christ. They serve as a reminder to the faithful of their call to witness and spread the Good News, as well as the assurance of Christ's lordship and his abiding presence through the Spirit.

In conclusion, the Ascension of the Lord is a celebration of hope, a reminder of Christ's victory, and an invitation to live a life of faith and witness. It is a day to look upward to heaven and forward to the future, knowing that Christ has paved the way for humanity's ultimate redemption and union with God. Jesus did not orphan His Catholic Church.  In John 14:3 He said: "And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am."

He will return again. Have faith, hope, and love Him and One Another!

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