Ascension Sunday, 20 May 2012
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to heaven? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven shall come in the same way as you have seen Him going up to heaven.”
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension today as mandated by Bishops Conference for Dioceses England and Wales. Thus we raise our thoughts to heaven where, as we see in today’s Epistle (Acts 1:1-11), Our Lord Jesus has ascended.Pope St. Leo the Great said: “Christ’s Ascension is our ascension; our body has the hope of one day being where its glorious Head has preceded it.” This is what Jesus said on the night before He died: “I go to prepare a place for you, and if I shall go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself; that where I am you also may be.” Jn. 14: 23. According to Fr. Gabriel, OCD in his book of meditations, Divine Intimacy, “The Ascension is then, a feast of joyful hope, a sweet foretaste of heaven. By going before us, Jesus our Head has given us the right to follow Him there some day, and we can even say with St. Leo, ‘In the person of Christ, we have penetrated the heights of heaven.’ (Roman Breviary) As in Christ Crucified, we die to sin; as in the Risen Christ, we rise to the life of grace, so too, we are raised up to heaven in the Ascension of Christ. This vital participation in Christ’s mysteries is the essential consequence of our incorporation in Him. He is our Head; we, as His members, are totally dependent upon him and intimately bound to His destiny. ‘God, who is rich in mercy,’ says St. Paul, ‘for His exceeding charity wherewith He loved us…hath quickened us together in Christ… and hast raised us up… and hath made us sit together in the heavenly place through Christ Jesus.’ Eph. 2:4-6 Our right to heaven has been given us, our place is ready; it is for us to live in such a way that we may occupy it someday.” Fr. Gabriel, “Divine Intimacy,” p. 535
“…ascending on high, He hath led captivity captive.” Ps. 67:19
In today’s Mass, the Alleluia verses give us a powerful prophecy of the Messias leading souls into heaven: “Alleluia. The Lord is in Sinai, in the holy place; ascending on high, He hath led captivity captive.” Ps. 67:19 This image of captives being led into the city of their conquerors was common in Rome when victorious generals would lead their conquests, as their trophies, into the imperial city. So, too, Jesus will lead those whom He has redeemed into heaven as Dom Prosper Gueranger in The Liturgical Year, Vol.9 explains: “The two Alleluia-versicles give us the words of the royal psalmist, wherein he celebrates the glorious Ascension of the future Messias, the acclamation of the angels, the loud music of heaven’s trumpets, the gorgeous pageant of the countless fortunate captives of limbo whom the conqueror leads up, as His trophy, to heaven.” Gueranger, p. 179. How blessed shall we be who are led into heaven as trophies of Christ’s glorious redemption.
“Sweet Sorrow of Christ’s Ascension”
Although Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven has an element of sorrow, Jesus told us that our “sorrow will be turned to joy.” (Jn. 16:20) We can see this especially if we look at Jesus’ Ascension through the eyes of His beloved Mother Mary. The disciples of Jesus used to wonder which of the two sentiments, sadness or joy, had priorityin Our Lady’s heart when Jesus ascended into heaven. Dom Prosper Guerangercomments on this question: “They (disciples) used to ask themselves, which of the two sentiments was uppermost in her maternal heart, –sadness, that she was to see her Jesus no more, or joy, that He was now going to enter into the glory He so infinitely deserved. The answer was soon found: had not Jesus said to His disciples: ‘If ye loved Me, ye would indeed be glad, because I go to the Father’; Jn. 14:28 Now, who loved Jesus as Mary did? The Mother’s heart, then, was full of joy at parting with Him. How was she to think of herself, when there was question of the triumph of her Son and her God? Could she that had witnessed the scene of Calvary, do less than desire to see Him glorified, whom she knew to be the sovereign Lord of all things, — Him whom, but a short time ago, she had seen rejected by His people, blasphemed, and dying the most ignominious and cruel of deaths?” Gueranger, p. 170
“Sorrow to turn to joy!”
“Amen, Amen I say to you that your shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be sorrowful but your sorrow shall be turned to joy.” Jn. 16:20
But before our sorrow turns to joy in heaven with Jesus’ return, the angels remind the disciples that they must not stand idle. They are to return to Jerusalem and await the Holy Spirit. Then the disciples are instructed to go into the whole world and baptize all in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you: and behold I am with you all days, even to consummation of the world.” Mt. 28:19-20 Jesus gave His disciples this commission just before He ascended into heaven. Dom Gueranger tells us that thedisciples were still caught up in the moment of Jesus’ Ascension: “The disciples are still steadfastly looking up to towards heaven, when lo! two angels, clad in white robes, appear to them saying: ‘Ye men of Galilee! Why stand ye looking up to heaven? This Jesus, who is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come as ye have seen Him going into heaven!’ Acts 1:10-11
Joy and Triumph in the Ascension
Dom Gueranger again reminds us of the meaning of Jesus’ Ascension: “He has ascended, a Saviour; He is to return a Judge: between these two events is comprised the whole life of the Church on earth. We are therefore living under the reign of Jesus as our Saviour, for He has said: ‘God sent not His Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved by Him:’ (Jn. 3:17) and to carry out this merciful design He has been giving to His disciples the mission to go throughout the whole world, and invite men, while yet there is time, to accept the mystery of salvation. …. They love Jesus; they rejoice at the thought of His having entered into His rest. ‘They went back into Jerusalem with great joy.’ Lk. 24:52 These few simple words of the Gospel indicate the spirit of this admirable feast of the Ascension: it is a festival which, not withstanding its soft tinge of sadness, is, more than any other expressive of joy and triumph.” Gueranger, p. 173-4 After his Ascension, the Apostles, as seen in today’s gospel (Mark 16:14-20), had been commissioned the Apostles to preach the gospel to the whole world: “And He said to them: ‘Go ye into the whole world and teach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.” Mk. 16: 15-16 In Jerusalem, the Apostles’ joy had to await the coming of the Holy Spirit who would fill them with His power at Pentecost to preach the gospel to all nations. How joyful we too should be to have the “good news” of the gospel given to our Apostolic Church.
The Need for Prayer
Our Holy Father, Bl. John Paul II spoke of the absolute need of prayer in our lives if we wish to gain eternal salvation: “…we must pray too because we are fragile and culpable. We need to admit humbly and truly that we are poor creatures, with confused ideas…We are fragile and weak, and in constant need of interior strength and consolation. Prayer gives us strength for great ideals, for keeping up our faith, charity, purity, generosity; prayer gives us strength to rise up from indifference and guilt, if we have had the misfortune to give into temptation and weakness. Prayer gives light by which to see and to judge from God’s perspective and from eternity. That is why you must not give up praying! Don’t let a day go by without praying a little! Prayer is a duty, but it is also a joy because it is a dialogue with God through Jesus Christ.” Servant of God, Pope John Paul II, Audience with Young People, 14 March 1979 If we want to save our souls, then we need to pray for the graces that we need. This is why Our Lady told the three children at Fatima: “Pray and sacrifice for many souls will go to hell because no one prays and sacrifices for them.”
“Could you not, then, watch one hour with Me?” Mt. 26:40
We are now in our second year of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from after Mass until Benediction at 3:10 P. M. every day. “…. Particular attention should also be given to Eucharistic adoration, and in every diocese there should be churches or chapels specifically devoted to this purpose. I ask parishes, seminaries, religious houses and monasteries to organise periods of Eucharistic adoration, so that all have an opportunity to take part. Through intense prayer before the real presence of the Lord, you can make reparation for the sins of abuse that have done so much harm, at the same time imploring the grace of renewed strength and a deeper sense of mission on the part of all bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful.” (No. 14) From “HOLY FATHER’S PASTORAL LETTER TO THE CATHOLICS OF IRELAND” (3 March 2010)
How to attend Holy Mass
“The Holy Mass is a prayer itself, even the highest prayer that exists. It is the sacrifice, dedicated by our Redeemer at the Cross, and repeated every day on the altar. If you wish to hear Mass, as it should be heard, you must follow with eye, heart, and mouth all that happens at the altar. Further, you must pray with the Priest the holy words said by him in the Name of Christ and which Christ says by him. You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings which are contained in these words, and in this manner you ought to follow all that happens at the altar. When acting in this way, you have prayed Holy Mass.”
His Holiness, Pope St. Pius X
Sister, if possible, also mention that tea and coffee are available in St. Joseph’s Hall after Mass. All are welcome.