Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Ascension of Christ

May the 5th is the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord

The Gospel Reading for the Feast of the Ascension:

Luke 24:46-53 ~ Jesus’ Appearance to the Disciples in Jerusalem and His Ascension from the Mt. of Olives

46 And he [Jesus] said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day 47 and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 “And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” 50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands and blessed them. 51 As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. 52 They did him homage and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the Temple praising God.

Universal power and kingship now belongs to the resurrected Jesus Christ; therefore, He confers upon the eleven ministers of His Church a universal mission to teach the Gospel message of salvation and to baptize believers from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth (also see Acts 1:6, 8). Notice that Jesus links repentance to the forgiveness of sins and the call to salvation in verse 47: “After his Resurrection, Christ sent his apostles ‘so that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.’ The apostles and their successors carry out this ‘ministry of reconciliation,’ not only by announcing to men God’s forgiveness merited for us by Christ, and calling them to conversion and faith; but also by communicating to them the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, and reconciling them with God and with the Church through the power of the keys, received from Christ …” (CCC 981, referring to Mt 16:19). Without genuine repentance (the changing of one’s heart from rebellion to obedience towards God) there can be no forgiveness of sins (see Mt 3:2; Lk 1:77; 3:8; 5:32;13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19, 26; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 17:30; 26:20).

Between Jesus’ appearances to His disciples and Apostles on Resurrection Sunday and His Ascension, there is a forty-day period in which Jesus continues to teach the Church, both appearing and disappearing at will (Acts 1:3). He will meet with them in the Galilee, as He told them at the Last Supper (Mt 26:32) and as the angel instructed them (Mt 28:7). St. John’s Gospel will give a lengthy account of that meeting (Jn 21:1-23). After the Galilee, the disciples and Apostles will return to Jerusalem just before the pilgrim feast of Weeks, also known by the Greek title “Pentecost,” which means “fiftieth day” (Dt 16:16). It was a feast that was counted fifty days from the celebration of the Feast of Firstfruits (the feast day after the Sabbath of the Holy Week of Unleavened Bread), as the ancients counted without the concept of using a zero-place value and as the Church continues to count the days from Resurrection Sunday to Pentecost. Like the Feast of Firstfruits, Pentecost always fell on the first day of the week—our Sunday (Lev 23:15-21; Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 13.8.4 [252]. Jesus will meet with His disciples and Apostles one final time before He leading them out to the Mt. of Olives and ascending to the Father in His heavenly kingdom (Lk 24:49; Acts 1:4-5).

In verse 49 “The promise of my Father” that Jesus is sending is the Paraclete (Greek word means “advocate” or “counselor”)—God the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:15-17, 26; 15:26; 16:7-8). Notice the procession of the Holy Spirit in these passages from the Father and the Son. It is what we profess in the Nicene-Constantinople Creed.

The disciples obediently returned to the same Upper Room in Jerusalem where they held the Last Supper. It was there, in obedience to Jesus’ command, that the Apostles, the men and women disciples, the Virgin Mary and Jesus’ kinsmen all remained in prayer for nine days as the united 120 members of the first Christian community (Acts 1:13-15). Under the Old Covenant traditions, 120 people was the minimum number required for forming a religious community. They continued in prayer, waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Jewish feast of Pentecost on the tenth day after Jesus’ Ascension (Acts chapter 2). It is for this reason that a “novena,” a prayer with a single petition (in Latin “novem,” meaning “nine”), lasts for nine days. After the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles devoted themselves to teaching the community, breaking bread together, and fearlessly going to the Temple daily to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:42, 46-47).

For a more in-depth teaching on the readings for this feast see:
Sunday_Doc=Obligations_Solemnities_Feasts%2Fascension_c. Michal E. Hunt Copyright © 2016
The Ascension of Christ