Seventh Sunday of Easter (Ascension Sunday)
THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD
Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, a special day in the Church. When I was young, the Ascension, forty days after Easter, was Ascension Thursday, a holy day of obligation. Because I attended a Catholic elementary school, I had the privilege of having the day off school. After I attended early morning Mass with my family, I had the day ‘free’ unlike my non-Catholic friends. Often it would mean riding my bike as a new spring activity and preparing said bike for the priest’s blessing of the bikes during our Mary, Queen of the May parade later in the month. I recall also my concept of the Ascension : I pictured Jesus rising in a cloud, then sitting at the right hand of God the Father, ready to help me if I needed Him or be my ‘advocate,’ ever- present as I prayed to Him. It was a picture symbolizing the love of the Father and the Son, a gift to all. To me, the Ascension has always been a ‘positive’ aspect of my religious formation.
The Apostles returned “with great joy”. With the gaze of faith, they understood that, even if they were gone from view, Jesus remained always with them. They were to continue His work, make disciples of all nations, teaching others to obey what Jesus had represented. This solicitude passed from generation to generation down to our own day. Now, we don’t have to go around preaching the Good News to all around us, pontificating about Christ’s teachings; rather we continue this by living as examples and models of our Catholic beliefs. I learned at an early age that even if you don’t have much materially, you can still give to others. My quarter in the mission box at school every week was helping some other girl or boy providing food or warm clothing. Today there are numerous ways people exemplify the ideals Jesus instilled so many years ago. Think of those who give others strength and consolation in times of despair; those who can sit in silence with their fellow man not knowing what to say but knowing that they should be there (which can bring new life to a dying heart); the parents who not only nurture their family with food but with their companionship; the retired couple who take their neighbour to doctor’s appointments, weekly Mass; those who give – be it a smile, a handshake, a word of thanks, a word of love, a part of their life. All these continue the works of the disciples after the Ascension so long ago.
Pope Francis reiterates my early concept of the Ascension – “we are never alone; the Crucified and Risen Lord guides us and there are many brothers and sisters with us. They live their faith every day, and bring to the world the lordship of God’s love, in their family life and work, in their problems and difficulties, in their joys and hopes. If we entrust our lives to Him we are sure to be in safe hands, in the hands of our Saviour, our Advocate.”
Take heart in the words of John Paul II who said “Let us renew our faith today in the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has gone to prepare a place for us, so that He can come back again and take us to Himself.”
Cathy Keirstead, St. Elizabeth of the Trinity