May 18, 2012

Feast of the Ascension of the Lord / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe date for the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord varies from place to place.

In some dioceses, this feast was celebrated on Thursday, May 17. In these places, the liturgy for this weekend will be that of the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

In other dioceses, the feast is celebrated this weekend. These reflections address the readings for the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, not for the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

In the opening reading, from the first verses of the Acts of the Apostles, the author speaks first to Theophilus.

Scholars debate the identity of Theophilus. Some scholars believe that it is the actual proper name of a person in the early Church. Other scholars, noting that the name is the Greek translation for “friend of God,” think that it was not a proper name, but rather something of a title of respect or endearment.

Regardless, the use of this name or title reveals the link between the Gospel of St. Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Both books in the New Testament are addressed to Theophilus.

This reading is about the Ascension. It also is about the Apostles and, more importantly, the special role that Jesus gave them. They witnessed the Ascension as they witnessed the other great events in the mission of Christ—the miracles, the preaching to the multitudes, the Last Supper, Good Friday and the Resurrection.

This intimacy with the Lord prepared them to teach the Gospel. Moreover, the Holy Spirit would empower them in their mission of preaching the Good News.

Angels challenged these privileged Apostles, who were so blessed in their knowledge of the Redeemer, telling them not to look to the skies, nor to look at each other, nor to go back to what they were before meeting Jesus, but to go abroad and take with them the Good News of God’s love and mercy.

For the second reading, this liturgy presents St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians.

In this epistle, Paul prays that God will give wisdom and insight to all who follow the Lord. It is a wisdom that is too great for humans. God must provide it.

In the reading’s conclusion, Paul extols Jesus as the Lord and Savior at whose holy feet are creation itself and all creatures, including humans.

St. Mark’s Gospel provides the last reading.

In it, the Lord commissions the Apostles to go into the entire world “to proclaim the Good News of salvation.”

He invests them with divine power, giving them authority even over the devil. They will be able to flaunt death. They will be able to cure the sick. They will be able to act as the Lord acted.

In every sense, they will represent Jesus. The Gospel concludes that the Apostles went far and wide, and the Lord “worked through them.”

Reflection

This Sunday, the Church celebrates the Ascension of the Lord. This great event of the Ascension, so well described in the Scriptures, is a sign of the Lord’s divine identity as much as the Resurrection, and certainly as much as the miracles.

The story, however, as reflected in the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of St. Mark, does not end with its affirmation of the place of Jesus as the Son of God and Savior, visibly seen during the Lord’s public ministry in the Roman province of Palestine in the first century A.D.

For us Christians today, as for all Christians who have lived since the events recorded in these Scriptures, the story has strong personal implications.

The Lord, crucified on Calvary and risen at Easter, is still with you and me. He is in the world—living, healing and saving.

He lives through the Apostles and their successors. Through them, we hear the Lord. Through them, we meet the Lord.

Jesus is Lord! He is God. He lives! †

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