– 8th May 2016 –
Gospel reading: Luke 24:46-53
vs. 46 Jesus said to his disciples: “You see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead,
vs. 47 and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
vs. 48 You are witnesses to this.
vs. 49 And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city, then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.”
vs.50 Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them.
vs. 51 Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven.
vs. 52 They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy;
vs. 53 and they were continually in the Temple praising God.
We have four commentators available from whom you may wish to choose .
Sean Goan: Studied scripture in Rome, Jerusalem and Chicago and teaches at Blackrock College and works with Le Chéile.
Donal Neary SJ: Editor of The Sacred Heart Messenger
Michel de Verteuil
Lectio Divina,The Year of Luke
General Textual comments
The Ascension of Jesus was an essential stage in his relationship with this followers. He had walked with them in their moments of strength and of weakness, and now he was leaving them.
It is, of course, significant that this moment occurred immediately after his apparent defeat and after they had betrayed him.
By meditating on the story, we discover similar moments in our own relationship with God, with a cause, or with people who have touched our lives.
St Luke tells us the story in three sections:
– Verses 47 and 48 are the conclusion of a teaching by which Jesus “opened the minds of the apostles to understand the scriptures.” You can interpret “the scriptures” as referring to all traditional wisdom.
– Verse 49 stands by itself as a dramatic call to wait patiently until the moment of grace.
– Verses 50 to 53 are St Luke’s account of the Ascension; every word is symbolical.
Discover through your meditation the paradox of the apostles “returning to Jerusalem full of joy” after such a sorrowful parting.
Lord, we remember a time when we had given ourselves to a cause and became disillusioned:
– a trusted companion let us down,
– the political party we had joined was rejected at the polls,
– we turned away from an addiction but fell back into it,
– our Church community closed down a movement we had started.
Then something happened to make us realize that the movement was still alive:
– a new leader took charge,
– old companions returned and new ones joined us,
– in a moment of prayer we felt a new heart had been put into us.
It was as if Jesus had appeared to us and said,
“So you see how it is written that an Anointed One must suffer,
and only on the third day rise from the dead.”
“We have closed the book on apartheid.” F.W. De Klerk on television,18 March 1992
“Not yet, mister.” Response of an evangelical pastor
Lord, we pray for the people of South Africa,
and all those who are starting on the path of conversion.
Let them not forget how it is written
that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead.
Lord, we would always prefer to preach the name of Jesus from a position of strength
-we have turned away from sin;
-we have completed a course of study and now understand the message;
-many people admire us.
Send Jesus to remind us that if we want repentance for the forgiveness of sins
to be preached to all the nations,
we must begin from Jerusalem where we betrayed our cause and were welcomed back.
Then we will be witnesses to your forgiveness.
“I continue to believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.”
Martin Luther King, accepting the Nobel Peace prize
Lord, we pray today for those who are tired of waiting for your grace
-parents with a child addicted to drugs,
-leaders working for Church renewal,
-third world people caught in the debt trap.
Though you are delaying, you are sending down what you promised,
so they must stay in the city until they are clothed with the power from on high.
“The person of prayer leads the world beyond the dichotomy of life and death and is therefore a witness to life.”
Lord, we thank you for the great people you have sent into our lives
– they widened our horizons,
– helped us to see new possibilities,
– showed us the implications of our sins.
Like Jesus with his disciples, they led us to the outskirts of where we lived,
lifted their hands and blessed us and then withdrew from us,
leaving us to return to our daily lives full of joy.
We were sad, of course, and felt tremendous respect for them,
but their being carried up to heaven did not destroy us.
We went back to Jerusalem full of joy,
and from then on we were continually in the temple praising you.
Liturgical Resources for the Year of Luke
Introduction to the Celebration
The image we have of the Ascension is that of departing, going away, disappearing; but our belief as Christians is that it represents the silent presence of Christ everywhere in the universe. He is no longer limited by earthly conditions — to be in one place at one time in his presence to his followers — but now dwells in the heavens with the Father: present in every gathering of his people — so he is present among us now, present whenever his people are in need, present in hearts calling us to be disciples and to be his hands, and feet, and voice in our lives.
To celebrate this feast today is not to recall a past event — that day long ago ‘when he went up to heaven’ — but to rejoice that Jesus is our living Lord, with us now, leading and guiding us, because he is not tied down to a moment in earthly history.
Today we read the story — only found in Luke in his gospel which we are about to read now, and in his book of Acts which we have just read a few moments ago — of the mystery we are celebrating. Jesus commanded that the forgiveness of sins be preached to all and then was carried from their sight but was still with them in their hearts and in their gathering: that is how Jesus is with us here now, and still commanding us to make known the forgiveness of sins.
1. Preaching on the priesthood of Christ, and so of our identi~ as a priestly people, always seems such a difficult task tha most of us try to avoid it! Yet, if Ascension Day is our ritual celebration of his entry into the true heavenly sanctuary, just as Good Friday was the celebration of his sacrifice, his shed ding his blood for our reconciliation – and this in one of the classic ways that the tradition has understood this mystery then it is something we should not try to avoid. The temptation is to treat the Ascension as simply some sort of historic” recollection of ‘the final act’ of the earthly Jesus (see the Not on Ascension and Pentecost), and to forget that the theology ( c/f The letter to the Hebrews) is one of the basic ways by which we as Christian understand the mystery of the Cross.
2. However, to open up this vision of today, and of the sacrifice / redemption of Christ, we need a convenient vehicle. The liturgy provides just such an entry-point in today’s magnificent preface (Preface of the Ascension I, P 26; Missal, p. 429). So the homily could take the form of a meditation on that preface with a few glosses of explanation. Alas, when this preface is simply spoken out in the Liturgy of the Eucharist today, it is all over so quickly that its beauty and theology can be simply missed – so a meditation on upon it will prepare the assembly to appreciate it more when actually used.
3. Today the Lord Jesus, the king of Glory’ – we are speaking now about our living, risen Lord, we are not recalling an event two millennia ago. And, we are celebrating today through the mystery of our baptism we are being brought into the actual ascension now, for we are with Christ who is in the Father’s presence giving us and all people his reconciliation. The ascension is a means of giving us images that speak to us as image-loving-beings of what Christ’s love is all about.
The conqueror of sin and death.’ Jesus is the one who suffered and died on the Cross, and this shedding of blood showed his love and obedience to the Father and so has destroyed our death.
Ascended to heaven while the angels sang his praises.’ Our celebration today is that Jesus is the true high priest, higher than the angels (see Heb 1:5-13), who has entered the true temple – the Father’s presence.
‘Christ, the mediator … and Lord of all’. Jesus is priest and Lord.
‘Has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us but to be our hope.’ We are not abandoned nor do we look backwards, but look forwards with confidence because Jesus has prepared the way for us.
‘Christ is the beginning, the head of the church.’ We are united with him in baptism; we have been sprinkled with his pure water and are able to stand before the Father because we belong to him. We are a priestly people because he is our Way, our high priest.
And, the preface concludes with the pithiest statement of what is meant by Christian hope / confidence that is no mere optimism: ‘where he has gone, we hope to follow.’
This is why we can say in the line leading to the Sanctus (when we claim that our praises at this eucharistic assembly become joined with that of the heavenly assembly) that the joy of his resurrection and ascension renews the whole world: Christ the priest has reconciled the world to the Father, and soon we will celebrate the presence of the Spirit whom the Father has sent among us for the forgiveness of sins (see the formula of absolution).
4. When a text has been used with glosses as a meditation, it is then useful to conclude the meditation by reading the text through again from beginning to end without comment to let the hearers ‘own’ the words that have been commented upon.
3. Sean Goan
Let the reader understand
This is the second description of the Ascension we read today. However, it differs from our first reading in that it marks the end of the gospel of Luke. So as Jesus departs he reminds them that they are witnesses to his ministry and to his death and resurrection. The final piece of this drama will unfold when he sends them the promised Holy Spirit through which they will be clothed with ‘power from on high’. Then after seeing him depart they return to Jerusalem, full of joy, continually praising God in the Temple. The themes of the joy, the praise of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit have been to the fore throughout Luke’s gospel, and it is only fitting that he should end his first volume on this note of fervour with the disciples eager to undertake their task.
We are reminded today that it is not the task of Christians to ‘”stand looking up into the sky’ either to mourn Jesus’ departure from earth or to simply await his return.
Our role until his Second Coming is to witness to him. This we do through recognising that we have indeed been clothed with power from on high. As his body, the church, we are to be Jesus’ continued presence on earth bringing freedom, healing and forgiveness to all who long to know the true God.
4. Donal Neary S.J.
Making a home is a big opportunity of love for a husband and wife and a family. They try to make it their own: pictures and memorabilia here and there make a home out of a house. It doesn’t have to be perfect. They want others to be able to feel at home in their home also.
It’s the same with Jesus. In our hearts and the depths of our personality he makes a home for himself and the Father. He asks for a loving and welcoming heart not a place that is perfect tidy and clean. To make a home is a work of love. Jesus’ making of a home in us comes through our growth and development in love. The loving marriage and family the loving friendship, the heart that cares for others, these are what make Jesus feel at home.
Is this a strange way of looking on God. We think of God in the power of nature and almost the maker of history. God seems to reject this all-powerful view of himself and makes accessible in the home of our hearts.
Home is a place of help. We look out for each other, and the content home is where each cares for the other. St Ignatius used say each day, ‘Who can I help today?’ Maybe we can make that part of the music of our homes. This is God helping through you, and it is God finding us and each other in love.
Lord, open my heart to prayer and care this day. Open my eyes to the beauty and the problems of others. Open my heart to your love for me.