May 22, 2009

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 places, this feast will have been celebrated on Thursday, May 21. In these places, the liturgy for this weekend will be that of the Seventh Sunday of Easter.

These reflections will address the readings for the Feast of the Ascension, 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, a proper name, or a title of endearment. Regardless, this book of the Bible may have originally been a private communication sent to one person.

The use of this name or title is more than trivial. Among other considerations, the use of this name or title reveals the link between the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Both are addressed to Theophilus.

The reading describes the Ascension. Then, importantly, it mentions the apostolic community. It specifically notes that Jesus chose the Twelve “through the Holy Spirit.”

In other words, the Apostles did not just happen to cross the Lord’s path at a given moment. Rather, Jesus chose them personally. They were Apostles specifically called and then commissioned to spread the Gospel.

As Jesus ascends into heaven, the Apostles stand alongside. They witness this miraculous event. Not everyone is privileged to see the Ascension.

The sight was not to be seen and forgotten. Angels challenged these privileged Apostles, who were so blessed in their knowledge of the Redeemer, not to look to the skies nor to look at each other, but to go abroad with the Good News of God’s mercy.

For the second reading, this liturgy presents the Epistle to the Ephesians.

In this epistle, Paul prays that God will give wisdom and insight to all who follow the Lord. Such wisdom does not come automatically. It is not native to humans. It is too great to be native. God must provide it.

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

St. Mark’s Gospel is the last reading.

In this reading, Jesus commissions the Apostles to go into the entire world “to proclaim the Good News of salvation.” He empowers them with divine power. They will have authority even over the devil. They will be able to flaunt death. They will be able to cure the sick.

In short, they will exercise the power that the Lord exercised. In every sense, they will represent Jesus. By encountering them, people far removed by distance or time from Jesus, and from the first century A.D. in Palestine, will indeed meet Jesus.

The Gospel concludes that the Apostles went far and wide, and the Lord “worked through them.”


Today, the Church celebrates the Ascension of the Lord. This great event of the Ascension, so well described in the Scriptures, is another compelling sign of the Lord’s divine identity.

The Ascension of Jesus was unique. No one else ever ascended to heaven unless being so permitted by God. Mary was assumed into heaven. God’s power lifted her up.

The difference between the terms “ascension” and “assumption” is critically important. Jesus ascended in the divine power reposing in the Son of God.

The Church proclaims on this feast once more its devoted and unswerving belief. Jesus is Lord! He is God.

However, as Jesus ascended, the faithful were not left as if they were orphans. The work of redemption did not cease.

Jesus still lives, but also acts, through the Apostles. They continue to preach the Good News and restore life to the dying. In them, and their successors, the Lord lives!

The Lord, and the Apostles, still live in the Church. †

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