May 17,2015: The Ascension of the Lord
Catholic Social Teaching: Care for God’s Creation
The entrance of Jesus Christ into the history of the world reaches its culmination in the Paschal Mystery, where nature itself takes part in the drama of the rejection of the Son of God and in the victory of his Resurrection (cf. Mt 27:45,51, 28:2). Crossing through death and grafting onto it the new splendour of the Resurrection, Jesus inaugurates a new world in which everything is subjected to him (cf. 1 Cor 15:20-28) and he creates anew those relationships of order and harmony that sin had destroyed. Knowledge of the imbalances existing between man and nature should be accompanied by an awareness that in Jesus the reconciliation of man and the world with God — such that every human being, aware of divine love, can find anew the peace that was lost — has been brought about. “Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). Nature, which was created in the Word is, by the same Word made flesh, reconciled to God and given new peace (cf. Col 1:15-20). (454) Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
First Reading: Acts 1:1-11
Psalm: 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
Second Reading: Ephesians 1:17-23 or Ephesians 4:1-13 (short form Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-13)
Gospel: Mark 16:15-20
Catechism of the Catholic Church
“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.” Christ’s body was glorified at the moment of his Resurrection, as proved by the new and supernatural properties it subsequently and permanently enjoys. But during the forty days when he eats and drinks familiarly with his disciples and teaches them about the kingdom, his glory remains veiled under the appearance of ordinary humanity. Jesus’ final apparition ends with the irreversible entry of his humanity into divine glory, symbolized by the cloud and by heaven, where he is seated from that time forward at God’s right hand. Only in a wholly exceptional and unique way would Jesus show himself to Paul “as to one untimely born”, in a last apparition that established him as an apostle. (659)
From the Daily Roman Missal, Introduction to the Ascension of the Lord, Cycle B
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church:
The definitive salvation that God offers to all humanity through his own Son does not come about outside of this world. While wounded by sin, the world is destined to undergo a radical purification (cf. 2 Pet 3:10) that will make it a renewed world (cf. Is 65:17, 66:22;Rev 21:1), finally becoming the place where “righteousness dwells” (2 Pet 3:13).
In his public ministry, Jesus makes use of natural elements. Not only is he a knowledgeable interpreter of nature, speaking of it in images and parables, but he also dominates it (cf. the episode of the calming of the storm in Mt 14:22-33; Mk 6:45-52; Lc 8:22-25; Jn 6:16-21). The Lord puts nature at the service of his plan of redemption. He asks his disciples to look at things, at the seasons and at people with the trust of children who know that they will never be abandoned by a provident Father (cf. Lk 11:11-13). Far from being enslaved by things, the disciple of Jesus must know how to use them in order to bring about sharing and brotherhood (cf. Lk 16:9-13). (453)
Faith in Jesus Christ makes it possible to have a correct understanding of social development, in the context of an integral and solidary humanism. In this regard, the contribution of theological reflection offered by the Church’s social Magisterium is very useful: “Faith in Christ the Redeemer, while it illuminates from within the nature of development, also guides us in the task of collaboration. In the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians, we read that Christ is ‘the firstborn of all creation,’ and that ‘all things were created through him’ and for him (Col 1:15-16). In fact, ‘all things hold together in him’, since ‘in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things’ (v. 20). A part of this divine plan, which begins from eternity in Christ, the perfect ‘image’ of the Father, and which culminates in him, ‘the firstborn from the dead’ (v. 15-18), in our own history, marked by our personal and collective effort to raise up the human condition and to overcome the obstacles which are continually arising along our way. It thus prepares us to share in the fullness which ‘dwells in the Lord’ and which he communicates ‘to his body, which is the Church’ (v. 18; cf. Eph 1:22-23). At the same time sin, which is always attempting to trap us and which jeopardizes our human achievements, is conquered and redeemed by the ‘reconciliation’ accomplished by Christ (cf. Col 1:20) (327)
This Ascension Gospel reading comes from the “longer ending” of Mark’s Gospel. A text dating from the second century and mitigates core themes of Mark that date from over a century earlier around 70 AD/CE. The traditional ending concludes with the women leaving the tomb with bewilderment and fear. Greek translations define their experience as a transformation of consciousness, an experience of awe, for the faithful women disciples embraced the divine mystery. The “longer ending” speaks of condemnation for non-believers, yet Mark’s Gospel speaks of Jesus saying, “those not against us are for us.” In the “longer ending”, signs are articulated as accompanying and identify believers, while earlier in Mark, Jesus chastises those seeing a sign.
As Jesus rose from the grave and later was taken up into heaven, the disciples went froth into the whole world and preached everywhere. By Jesus ascending, they ceased from being a band of followers, observers to become witnesses to the end of the earth. They could no longer just stand looking at the sky. The New Testament letters tell of their stories, leading to conversions, obstacles, imprisonment and crowns of martyrdom. Lineage of saints, named and unnamed, continue the story and today, two thousand years later, we are placed in the story as Jesus’ disciples. Like the faithful women disciples, how have we let the resurrection transform our consciousness and arrange our priorities? Does the awe of the empty tomb infuse our lives with hope that belongs to our call, an inheritance beyond material view? Will our actions seek a bond of peace and unity, variegated with humility, gentleness and patience? Instead of gazing at the sky, do we gaze at a media infused screens, to hinder our discipleship?
We each have been given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Will we accept that gift, welcome it with gratitude in our soul and freely share the gift to build up the body of Christ, the Church? Can we move beyond trifling hypocrisy of exclusion to affirm the call of all people and remove artificial barriers silencing the authentic voices of discipleship? After His resurrection and before His ascension, Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God. Baptized with water and the Holy Spirit, may we be attentive to Jesus’ vision of the kingdom of God by embracing people with mercy, not absorbed in defining sinfulness, living joyfully to live as disciples and stewards realizing we do not rule the earth and all creatures, but God reigns over all nations, all the earth. What an awesome God!
Individual Reflection: Ephesian 4:1-13
Stand in solidarity with Bread for the World’s annual lobby day in Washington DC on June 9, 2015. If you cannot attend, read the resource material and call your representative and senators to share your support for child nutrition programs: http://www.bread.org/event/lobby-day-2015/
Family Reflection: Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
At home and in your car this week play joyful, faith-focused music.
Prayer: From Collects from the Ascension of the Lord: Vigil and Mass during the day
O God, whose Son today ascended into the heavens as the Apostles looked on, grant we pray, that, in accordance with his promise, we may be worthy for him to live with us always on earth and we with him in heaven. Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving. In Your Son’s name we pray, Amen
Blogs to Visit:
As we reflect upon Mary’s presence in the mysteries of the Rosary, we are blessed to know her. For her journey, a timeless trek, calls us to surrender, continuing conversion, humbleness and justice now.
Weekly lectionary reflections, for faith sharing groups, parish bulletins, newsletters or personal prayer, from the synergy of the Word we hear and the rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching.
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By Barb Born, May 15, 2015 The reflection maybe used in parish bulletins, newsletters or for faith sharing groups without copyright concern.