13May 13 May, 2018. The Ascension of the Lord

1st Reading: Acts (1:1-11)

Ascension: Jesus promises the gift of the Spirit at Pentecost

In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Resp. Psalm (from Ps 47)

R./ God goes up with shouts of joy, the Lord goes up with trumpet blast

All you peoples, clap your hands,
shout to God with cries of gladness.
For the Lord, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth. (R./)

God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the Lord, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise. (R./)

For king of all the earth is God;
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits upon his holy throne. (R./)

2nd Reading: Ephesians 1:17-23)

God has raised Jesus and exalted him. It is a privilege to belong to his body, the church

I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

Gospel: Mark (16:15-20)

The final instructions of Jesus, according to Mark

Jesus said to his disciples, “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.


Last Will and Testament

Mark notes succinctly that the Lord Jesus “was taken up into heaven” and then describes the spreading of the faith by  the apostles as done with the invisible help of his grace: “while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message…” Those who go out in his name, do so with his blessing. It was he who set the great target for them: “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation.” In Matthew’s Gospel the Lord’s definite promise is added, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

There was once an elderly woman who was very hesitant about making out her will. In her family tradition two things were put off until the last moment: making a will, or receiving  “The Last Anointing”. Making her will could mean she had not long to live. On the other hand, many families have split up badly just because someone belonging to them hadn’t made a will. In today’s gospel, Jesus is quite definite about his final will for his followers. They were to actively spread and share the saving message he had taught.

This mission  was simple to understand but difficult to carry out. It was to teach to others all that he had taught them. Just as  his disciples had followed him, they would ask others to accept and follow him too. The work of conversion and salvation must go on from generation to generation, until the end of time. With all the changes in our church and in our society, two things have not changed: Jesus himself, and his message of grace and mercy. The Message and the Messenger have not, and will never change. People who worry about changes in church and society should trust that the basics can still be relied on. He is with us always… and his mission our mission too.

“You write a new page of the gospel each day,
through the things that you do and the words that you say.
Others read what you write there, if faithful and true.
So, what is the gospel according to you?”

Though unseen, He is with us still, guiding and supporting. When we are alone we need not be lonely. One can be surrounded by people and still be lonely. But if in the right frame of mind we can feel, like Cicero, never less alone than when alone (“minus solum, quam cum solus” De officiis 3.1).  Communication with our Lord doesn’t even need words. If I am open to His presence in my life, and live with a conscious awareness of his presence, I can experience like those first Christians the Joy of the Gospel.


 When is an ending not an ending?

[Kieran O’Mahony. See his notes on the Readings ]

Mark takes the risk of an apparently negative ending to the story which began resoundingly in 1:1. This ending does not satisfy and never did. Perhaps that is Mark’s very point. To have a neat narrative ending would close the story in the past, whereas Mark forces us to realise that the Jesus story goes on the lives of all disciples, then and now . We are the bearers of the Good News, we are the continuation of the story, a story which in truth will never really end, thanks be to God.


Implications of next Friday’s Referendum

Should the homilist refer today to the implications of next Friday’s Referendum? I believe that yes, we should… while admitting that there are very complex issues relating to  crisis pregnancies, and that some in the congregation may feel persuaded to vote for to repeal, by some of the appeals to freedom and compassion made by the YES campaign.

I would point out that repealing the 8th Amendment to our Constitution would remove from the unborn child in the womb all constitutional right to life … and that this can have grave consequences for the moral compass of our society. The government could surely have proposed a REVISED amendment, purporting to cater for the more urgent cases such as foetuses with life-threatening conditions, pregnancies arising from rape, and other possible contingencies … rather than a total abolition of the unborn child’s right to life. Indeed, if the proposal to repeal the 8th is rejected, almost certainly an alternative referendum in the future will offer us a less stark choice, which would be less offensive to the Church’s reverence for human life.

Machtnamh: Tiomna Deireanach  (Last Will and Testament)

B’Fhuras an misean a thug sé dóibh a thuiscint ach deacair a chur i gcríoch. Sé a bhí i gceist daoine a theagasc d’réir mar a mhúin Sé dóibh. D’réir mar a d’iarr sé ar a dheisceabail cloí leis, bhí orthusan daoine eile a mhealladh chun cloí lena threoracha chomh maith. Ní mór don chlár athraithe agus slándála dul ó glún go glún, go dtí claochlú an domhain. Leis na hathruithe go léir atá tagtha i saol na heaglaise agus iad siúd atá le teacht amach anso, ní raibh agus ní bheidh aon athrú ar dhá rud: Íosa é féin, agus a theachtaireacht grásta agus trócaire. Is buan iad an Teachtaireacht agus an Teachtaire, agus níl athrú i ndán dóibh. Ba chóir do dhaoine a bhfuil imní orthu faoi athruithe san eaglais agus atá i ndán di amach anso gur féidir bheith muiníneach as bunghnéithe a an chreidimh. Tá Sé le linn i gcónaí … agus a misean is ár misean é freisin. Mar adeir an file: “Scríobhann tú leathnach úr den soiscéal gach lá, / trí na rudaí a dhéanann tú is na briathra a deireannn tú / bí deimhin de go bhfuil do scríobhainní seasamhach agus fíor / Mar sin de cad é do shoiscéal?”

One Response

  1. Pádraig McCarthy

    First Reading: Acts 1:
    “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven …”
    The emphasis on the fact that they were watching, gazing, may be an echo of Elisha being endowed with the spirit of Elijah in 2 Kings 2: “if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours …”

    Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?” “Let me inherit a double portion of your spirit,” Elisha replied. “You have asked a difficult thing,” Elijah said, “yet if you see me when I am taken from you, it will be yours—otherwise, it will not.”
    As they were walking along and talking together, suddenly a chariot of fire and horses of fire appeared and separated the two of them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elisha saw this and cried out, “My father! My father! The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” And Elisha saw him no more. Then he took hold of his garment and tore it in two. Elisha then picked up Elijah’s cloak that had fallen from him and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. He took the cloak that had fallen from Elijah and struck the water with it. “Where now is the Lord, the God of Elijah?” he asked. When he struck the water, it divided to the right and to the left, and he crossed over.”

    Second Reading: Ephesians:
    The optional alternative for Year B is Ephesians 4:1-13.
    This is preceded by the beautiful prayer at Ch.3:14-21. Perhaps use it as a post-communion reflection or prayer?
    The Reading: “Do all you can to preserve the unity of the spirit by the peace that binds you together.” The parting gifts listed are given so that “together the saints make a unity in the work of service, building up the body of Christ.” As Jesus came to serve, so we, the body of Christ in our world today, continue the work of service. We are the visible presence of the risen Jesus. In his being taken up, the chasm between earth and heaven disappears, His presence is not ended, but enhanced – even, unbelievably, through us.

    Gospel: Mark 16:15-20.
    The reference is to Mark 16:15-20. The “incipit”, the words introducing it, are from verse 14, which says that, “later” (seemingly on the day of resurrection) Jesus showed himself to the eleven “while they were reclining” – that is, while having a meal together: it may be worth while including this, as we share the eucharist together. Jesus sends them out: “go out to the whole world”, so, after he is taken up, they go out, “the Lord working with them.” Ite, missa est – the Lord working with us.
    Before we got our current Lectionary, Mark was rarely used in Sunday readings (perhaps twice each year?), not even on Mark’s feast day (April 25), when the reading was from John. Mark, however, was read for the Ascension, as today. “Reclining” (in the Latin form “recumbentibus”), at the start of the reading from rarely heard Mark, became in popular culture a kind of shorthand way of referring to the gospel according to Mark.
    In the parish church of St John the Baptist in Dublin, the main window in the gallery represents the four evangelists. For St John, the eagle holds a banner with the words “In principio erat verbum.” For Mark, the lion holds a banner: “Recumbentibus undecim discipulis.”
    Perhaps there are other church buildings around Ireland which represent Mark with “recumbentibus.”

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