21 May 2023 – The Ascension of the Lord, (A)

21 May 2023 – The Ascension of the Lord, (A)

1st Reading: Acts 1:1-11

Ascension concludes Jesus’ ministry on earth and prepares for 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.”

Responsorial: from Psalm 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 from the dead and exalted him above every created being. 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 (Year A): Matthew 28:16-20

Before he leaves this world, Jesus promises his disciples that he will be with them always

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”


Last Will and Testament

In the gospel we have just heard Our Lord’s final instructions, his Last Will and Testament. Just before leaving them, he reminds them of what he expects of them. Earlier he had sent them out to spread the Kingdom of God. Those who go in his name, do so with his authority. The authority goes with the mission, so to speak. In Matthew’s version he now adds this great promise, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Mark says that the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it”. And Luke emphasises that they will be “clothed with power from on high”, that is, with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus is very definite about what he has to say. Like any gathering of people, the feelings of his disciples were varied. But he sends them out to speak and act in his name.

Their mission was both easy and hard: easy to understand but hard to carry out. It was to teach others all that he had taught them. Just as he asked them to follow his way, they were to ask that others should follow that way too.

Has a doctor ever put you on a course of antibiotics. The most basic guidance about antibiotics is to complete the course. Even if the patient starts to feel well after a few days, to discontinue taking the medicine can let their condition grow worse.

Similarly, the message of salvation must continue to be shared until the end of time. With all the changes in the church and in society, neither Jesus nor his message have changed. His Gospel remains a call to live our lives to the full.

You write a new page of the gospel each day,
through all that you do and whatever you say.
Others read what you write, be it faithful or true.
So what is the gospel according to you?

He is with us always. This can be a real help against loneliness. Being alone is not the same as being lonely. One can feel lonely in a crowded street; or alternatively, like Cicero, never less alone than when alone ( “minus solum, quam cum solus”). This applies especially to those who believe the promise, “l am with you always.” Talking with him doesn’t even need words. If we are open to His presence in our heart, and treasure it, we can experience fully that “Joy of the Gospel” so warmly described for us by our good Pope Francis.

One Comment

  1. Thara Benedicta says:

    Key Message:
    Ascend from the feeling of hopelessness and live a victorious life.

    In the forty days between Resurrection and Ascension our Lord Jesus kept giving His peace and overflowing joy, wherever and whenever He entered any place. The Apostles received the peace of our Lord Jesus Christ and they were peaceful and joyful. We know that the same peaceful and joyful Lord Jesus Christ lives with us now and gives us the same peace and joy. Are we able to rejoice in His peace and in His joy?

    Do not live under stress:
    Nowadays we live under lots of stress, unnecessary stress. We want so many things, without realizing whether we really require them or not. We want to be looked at as though we are at the top of the world wherever we are. All these are unnecessary. What did our Lord Jesus say? He said, “I give you my peace”, “I give you joy” many times in the New Testament. But after receiving the peace and joy from our Lord Jesus too we are not able to experience the peace and joy.
    The enemy is very wise in making us worry about what we do not require. This is a good distraction tool used by the enemy. Whatever we think we should do, we will not be able to do. Because we get distracted by some other petty things. The enemy works for our destruction by using this distraction tool. He will force us to give up on our goals. Even our Lord Jesus was tempted by this tool of distraction thrice in the desert – Distraction was food when He was hungry, power when He had no strength and fame when He was not sought after. But He never gave in to any of them.
    The enemy knows that if we spend time with God, we will receive our energy, peace, power and joy required for the day. While God is yearning to spend time with us and we have good intentions to spend time with God in the morning, there is this enemy who looks for ways to keep us away from our God. We should recognize his ways and continue to pursue our way. We should not give up on spending time with God. There is nothing as important as spending time with our Lord Jesus. It took a long time for me to realize the enemy’s way of this distraction tool. If we are not able to say formal prayers, let us praise Him from the bottom of our heart. If time permits, let us keep praising during the first half of the day mentally. We can start with the first half of the day. Then we will not be able to be without searching for His presence wherever we are.
    Pursue God, the enemy will stop pursuing you.

    Do not create your own battles:

    Let us know what is necessary and what is unnecessary. The truth is if we do not have any problems, we are very creative in creating new problems. A related testimony, “One day in the morning I was complaining about many things, till the Holy Spirit revealed to me that God had blessed me that time period as a battle free period. I couldn’t even recognize that there were no battles around me”. We got used to worrying that our mind does not know how to enjoy peace.

    Start small, fulfil gloriously:
    When God guides us towards something, let us go forward. The more we think, the more we will fear. We cannot escape feeling the fear, but we should proceed cautiously. Fear is provided so that we are cautious about everything. But it should not prohibit us from progressing forward or from trying something new.

    Do not lose the little opportunities:
    There is a planned time for everything. God blesses us to be a blessing to someone at specific times. We should not lose those specific opportunities. Esther 4:14 says, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews …. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”. We will realize that it is our time to help others or to go forward. The Holy Spirit will reveal it to us. Let us utilize those moments.

    Facing big storms courageously:
    When we are surrounded by real big problems in life, we tend to live discouraged. We do what we shouldn’t do since it will add to our stress. We tend to stay awake and worry all night, instead of catching a good night’s sleep, eat more sugar, chocolates, junk food instead of eating light food since our digestive system may not be good due to stress, don’t workout instead lay on our couch lethargically. The most important thing – we get mad at God, who is the only one who can help us. Even if we run away from Him, He will run behind us and catch us. But how many more hardships would we face, since we are running away from Him?

    When the Israelites were out in the desert, God fed them with Mannah and water. Skipping food and water is not good for health. Drinking lots of water will flush out all the dirt from our body and will keep us healthy. None of the Israelites fell sick during the 40 years of desert journey. Fresh food and clean water were sufficient for their health.
    Don’t sit discouraged. God is not sitting at the throne not knowing what to do when He looks at you. He already has a bright future in hand planned for you.

    There is a man mentioned in the Bible, who lost all his property, all his children in a single day. It looks like a drama – He is just sitting in a place and one by one his servants came running to him to give him extremely bad news, with the same note “All of this is gone, only I survived. I came here running to tell you”. Even His servants looked down on him. Was there any reason for him to hope in God then. Job lost everything. But still he did not lose heart.

    Even then Job said, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;”
    That should be our attitude in life. We should not lose our heart under any circumstances.

    Fulfilling our destiny:
    God did not take a xerox of someone and create us. He uniquely carved each one of us, and each one of us is a masterpiece. God declares in Jeremiah 29: “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” When God created us, He also planned a prosperous future for us. So wherever we are now it doesn’t matter. God has planned a splendid future for us.
    In Mark 4:35, our Lord Jesus told, “Let us go to the other side”. In the middle there was a storm, the Apostles feared, our Lord Jesus stopped the storm, rebuked the Apostles for fearing and finally they reached the other side. They started without knowing about the storm that was planned for them in the middle. All they knew was that they were going to travel in the boat with Jesus and reach the other side of the shore. God does not show us the storms in the middle much ahead, but He will guide us through the storm. After the storm there is surely a calm. In the end everything will be good, since our Lord is in our boat.

    Esther’s book is a good example of a humble beginning, happy ending. She started her life as an orphan but lived as a glorious queen serving our Almighty Father. She was not fearing to die and sought to accomplish God’s will. Her perseverance was like a fire. In Esther 4:15, she says, “When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” She sought to fulfil her life’s purpose, and did not worry about risking her own life for it.

    Our Lord Jesus ascended to Heaven with a glorious victory. The cross and crucifixion frightened Him too in the garden of Gethsemane. But still He pursued the will of God. He did not carry the cross happily singing all the way to Calvary. He carried the spit of people on His face. He was despised, beaten, scourged, thorned, nailed, mocked but He was unstoppable. He pursued till the hardest battle was won. There is no battle as fierce as the battle fought by Jesus. He saved the entire humanity from sins within 24 hours.

    We are His children. Are there any battles too fierce for us?

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