May 14, 2021

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Acts of the Apostles supplies the first reading for this important feast in the Church, the celebration of the Lord’s wondrous ascension into heaven.

This reading begins as if it were a letter. It is addressed to Theophilus, as was the Gospel of St. Luke. Who was Theophilus? Was he a person with this as his name? Was he a devout Christian? Someone curious about Jesus? He may have been a devout Christian, because the name Theophilus may have been a title. In Greek, it means “friend of God.”

Regardless, both Acts and Luke were sent, as it were, to this person, arguing for a common authorship of these two New Testament works.

In this reading, the author states that Acts continues the story of salvation in Jesus begun in the Gospel of Luke. It describes the ascension of the Lord into heaven, an event occurring after Jesus had risen from the dead and had been among the Apostles and others faithful to God.

As the moment of the ascension approached, the Apostles still were confused. This confusion simply reveals that they were human. Their ability to grasp the things of God and his mind was limited, to say the least.

Jesus eases their confusion. He affirms that, while they are limited, all is in God’s plan. The Apostles have been commissioned. To enable them to fulfill their commissions, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit will be with them. The Spirit will guide them to proclaim the Gospel even “to the ends of the Earth” (Acts 1:8).

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians provides the next reading. It is a prayer that begs the blessings and guidance of God upon the faithful Christians of Ephesus. They need God, as all humans need God. His strength will be mighty. After all, divine strength raised Jesus from the dead. It is a power over everyone and everything.

St. Mark’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. It is a resurrection narrative at the conclusion of Mark.

The Lord, having risen on Easter, appears to the Eleven, the surviving Apostles reduced by one in number because of the suicide of the despondent, traitorous Judas.

In a final commission, Jesus sends the Apostles into the world, far and wide. They are to proclaim the Gospel to all creation. He has prepared, instructed and guided them. Anyone who accepts the Gospel they proclaim will be saved and be capable of marvelous deeds. The Lord will protect them. No true believer will ever die an eternal death.

Then, the passage says that Jesus ascended into heaven. Faithful to the Lord, the Apostles went forward and proclaimed the Gospel everywhere as they had been commissioned.


Celebrating the Ascension of the Lord in the form of a special liturgical feast is a revered and ancient tradition in the Church.

In the early years of the Church, it may have been celebrated together with Pentecost. For seventeen centuries, however, it has been a feast of its own.

Such is proper. The Ascension revealed much. Many lessons come from this feast. It again reveals Jesus, divine and human, crucified but risen. It reveals that we are not alone. Christ did not leave us. He lives with us, and teaches us still, through the Apostles and through the Church and its sacraments of the Church that they helped form and celebrated.

This feast, however, is more than a commemoration of a day 20 centuries ago. It calls us modern disciples to live for Jesus, and to love all others as Jesus loved.

When we do this, we, too, shall ascend, finally, to heavenly glory. †

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