Thứ Tư, 24 tháng 5, 2017

MAY 25, 2017 : THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD

The Ascension of the Lord
Lectionary: 58

Reading 1ACTS 1:1-11
In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days
and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with the them,
he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for "the promise of the Father
about which you have heard me speak;
for John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."

When they had gathered together they asked him,
"Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
He answered them, "It is not for you to know the times or seasons
that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth."
When he had said this, as they were looking on,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, "Men of Galilee,
why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven
will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven."

Responsorial PsalmPS 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
R. (6) God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
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 to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
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. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.
For king of all the earth is God;
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits upon his holy throne.
R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2EPH 1:17-23
Brothers and sisters:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might,
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Go and teach all nations, says the Lord;
I am with you always, until the end of the world.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
"All power 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,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."


Meditation: "The Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven"
Why did Jesus leave his disciples forty days after his resurrection? Forty is a significant number in the Scriptures. Moses went to the mountain to seek the face of God for forty days in prayer and fasting. The people of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years in preparation for their entry into the promised land. Elijah fasted for forty days as he journeyed in the wilderness to the mountain of God. For forty days after his resurrection Jesus appeared numerous times to his disciples to assure them that he had risen indeed and to prepare them for the task of carrying on the work which he began during his earthy ministry.
The Risen Lord is with us always to the end of time
Jesus' departure and ascension into heaven was both an end and a beginning for his disciples. While it was the end of Jesus' physical presence with his beloved disciples, it marked the beginning of Jesus' presence with them in a new way. Jesus promised that he would be with them always to the end of time (Matthew 28:20). Now as the glorified and risen Lord and Savior, ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, Jesus promised to send them the Holy Spirit who would anoint them with power from on high on the Feast of Pentecost, just as Jesus was anointed for his ministry at the River Jordan (Luke 3:21-22, 4:1,18). When the Lord Jesus departed physically from the apostles, they were not left in sorrow or grief. Instead, they were filled with joy and with great anticipation for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The Risen Lord empowers us to carry on his work
Why did the Risen Lord ascend into heaven? The Father raised the glorified body of his Son and enthroned him in glory at his right hand in heaven. The Lord Jesus in his glorified body now reigns as Lord over the heavens and the earth - over all that he has created. The Risen Lord reigns from the throne in heaven as our Merciful Redeemer and Gracious King. He intercedes for us and he empowers us through the outpouring of his Holy Spirit. The Lord Jesus gives us new life in his Spirit and he strengthens us in faith, hope and love so we can serve him and carry on his work as citizens of his kingdom here on earth.
You will be my witnesses to the ends of the earth
Jesus' last words to his disciples point to the key mission and task he has entrusted to his followers on earth - to be his witnesses and ambassadors to the ends of the earth so that all peoples, tribes, and nations may  hear the good news that Jesus Christ has come to set us free from sin, Satan, and death and has won for us a kingdom of peace, joy, and righteousness that will last forever. 
How can we be effective witnesses for Christ? Jesus told his disciples, "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you - and you shall be my witnesses... to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Jesus gives his followers the same power he received when the Holy Spirit came upon him and anointed him at the beginning of his mission (John 1:32-33). The Gospel is the power of God, the power to release people from their burden of sin, guilt, and oppression, and the power to heal, restore, and make us whole. Do you believe in the power of the Gospel to change and transform your life?  
We are ambassadors for Jesus Christ
Paul the Apostle reminds us that we are called to be ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Just as ambassadors are appointed to represent their country and to speak on behalf of their nation's ruler, we, too are appointed by the Lord Jesus to speak on his behalf and to bring others into a close and personal encounter with the Lord and Ruler of heaven and earth. This is the great commission which the risen Christ gives to the whole church. All believers have been given a share in this task - to be heralds of the good news and ambassadors for Jesus Christ, the only savior of the world. We have not been left alone in this task, for the risen Lord works in and through us by the power of his Holy Spirit. Today we witness a new Pentecost as the Lord pours out his Holy Spirit upon his people to renew and strengthen the body of Christ and to equip it for effective ministry and mission world-wide. Do you witness to others the joy of the Gospel and the hope of the resurrection?
“Lord Jesus, through the gift of your Holy Spirit, you fill us with an indomitable spirit of praise and joy which no earthly trial can subdue. Fill me with your resurrection joy and help me to live a life of praise and thanksgiving for your glory. May I witness to those around me the joy of the Gospel and the reality of your great victory over sin and death.”
Daily Quote from the early church fathersJesus ascends to heaven in his body - divine and human nature, by Augustine of Hippo, 354-430 A.D.
"You heard what came to our ears just now from the Gospel: 'Lifting up his hands, he blessed them. And it happened, while he was blessing them he withdrew from them, and was carried up to heaven.' Who was carried up to heaven? The Lord Christ was. Who is the Lord Christ? He is the Lord Jesus. What is this? Are you going to separate the human from the divine and make one person of God, another of the man, so that there is no longer a trinity of three but a quaternary of four? Just as you, a human being, are soul and body, so the Lord Christ is Word, soul and body. The Word did not depart from the Father. He both came to us and did not forsake the Father. He both took flesh in the womb and continued to govern the universe. What was lifted up into heaven, if not what had been taken from earth? That is to say, the very flesh, the very body, about which he was speaking when he said to the disciples, 'Feel, and see that a spirit does not have bones and flesh, as you can see that I have' (Luke 24:39).  Let us believe this, brothers and sisters, and if we have difficulty in meeting the arguments of the philosophers, let us hold on to what was demonstrated in the Lord's case without any difficulty of faith. Let them chatter, but let us believe." (excerpt from Sermon 242,6)

SOLEMNITY OF THE ASCENSION OF THE LORD
THURSDAY, MAY 25, MATTHEW 28:16-20
Holy Day of Obligation

(Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:17-23)

KEY VERSE: "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." (v 20)
TO KNOW: Jesus' disciples, who had previously doubted the reality of the resurrection, were now overcome with awe. On the mountain of the ascension, the risen Christ commissioned his disciples to continue his work on earth. Jesus' mission had been to the "lost sheep of the House of Israel" (Mt 10:6). Now he expanded his mission to encompass the whole world. Jesus empowered his disciples with his divine authority (Greek, exousia). He sent them to make disciples of "all nations," fulfilling the promise to Abraham that in him, all nations would be blessed (Gn 18:18). The disciples were to baptize in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit. Jesus reassured them by promising that his abiding presence and authority would sustain them. Jesus is "Emmanuel," which means, "God is with us" (Matt 1:23), the name given to him at conception in accord with Isaiah 7:14. The Spirit of the Risen Christ will guide and protect the church to the end of time.
TO LOVE: Risen Lord, be with our Church in times of joy and times of trial.
TO SERVE: In what ways am I empowered to continue Jesus' work on earth?
NOTE: In those places where the Ascension has been transferred to the Seventh Sunday of Easter, the following readings are used: Acts 18:1-8; John 16:16-20. With the Solemnity of the Ascension, the Church begins nine days of prayer in preparation of the celebration of Pentecost. ​

Thursday 25 May 2017

St Bede the Venerable; St Gregory VII; St Mary Magdalene de Pazzi.
Acts 18:1-8. Psalms 97(98):1-4. John 16:16-20.
The Lord has revealed to the nations his saving power — Psalms 97(98):1-4. John 16:16-20.
‘Your sorrow will be turned into joy.’
We acknowledge the real presence of Jesus not only in the sacrament but also in our daily lives. That said, there are times of physical trial and spiritual doubt when it might seem more appropriate to speak about his ‘real absence’.
The saints like Mother Teresa and even Jesus himself (see John 19:28) experienced such times of apparent abandonment by God—times when the taunt directed at the psalmist, ‘Where is your God?’ (Ps 42:11), might have been their question too.
O God, recalling your abundant love for me during the good times, may I be strengthened in all the trials of my present life by Jesus’ assurance that my pain will turn into joy now and, beyond my imagining, in the life to come.’


FEAST OF THE ASCENSION

The Feast of the Ascension is the fortieth day after Easter Sunday, which commemorates the Ascension of Christ into heaven, according to Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51, and Acts 1:2.
In the Eastern Church this feast was known as analepsis, "the taking up", and also as the episozomene, the salvation, denoting that by ascending into His glory, Christ completed the work of our redemption. The terms used in the West, ascensio and, occasionally, ascensa, signify that Christ was raised up by His own powers. Tradition designates Mount Olivet near Bethany as the place where Christ left the earth. The feast falls on Thursday. It is one of the Ecumenical feasts ranking with the feasts of the Passion, of Easter and of Pentecost among the most solemn in the calendar. The feast has a vigil and, since the fifteenth century, an octave which is set apart for a novena of preparation for Pentecost, in accordance with the directions of Leo XIII.



LECTIO DIVINA: JOHN 16,16-20
Lectio Divina: 
 Thursday, May 25, 2017

1) OPENING PRAYER
Lord God, our Father,
you are not far away from any of us,
for in you we live and move and exist
and you live in us
through your Holy Spirit.
Be indeed with us, Lord,
send us your Holy Spirit of truth
and through him deepen our understanding
of the life and message of your Son,
that we may accept the full truth
and live by it consistently.
We ask you this through Christ our Lord.
2) GOSPEL READING - JOHN 16,16-20
Jesus told to his disciples: “In a short time you will no longer see me, and then a short time later you will see me again. Then some of his disciples said to one another, 'What does he mean, "In a short time you will no longer see me, and then a short time later you will see me again," and, "I am going to the Father"? What is this "short time"? We don't know what he means.' Jesus knew that they wanted to question him, so he said, 'You are asking one another what I meant by saying, "In a short time you will no longer see me, and then a short time later you will see me again." 'In all truth I tell you, you will be weeping and wailing while the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.”
3) REFLECTION
• John 16, 16: Absence and presence. Jesus says a “little while” (un mikròn), that is to say, a very brief period of time, perhaps one “instant”. Over and beyond the multiplicity of nuances what we want to stress here is the exiguity of time. Just as the time that Jesus remained as Incarnate Word, with his own, in the same way, the time between his departure and his return, will also be brief. There will be no change in the interior situation of his disciples because the relationship with Jesus does not change: He is permanently close to them. Therefore, the vision of Jesus will not suffer any interruption but will be characterized by the communion of life with Him (Jn 14, 19).
The repeated use of the verb “to see” in v. 16: is interesting: «In a short time you will no longer see me, and then a short time later you will see me again”. The expression “a short time you will no longer see me” recalls the way with which the disciples see in the historical Jesus the Son of God; the other expression “a short time later you will see me again” recalls the experience of the Risen Christ. Jesus seems to want to say to the disciples that for a very short time the conditions to see him still exist, to recognize him in his visible flesh, but later, they will see him in a different vision in so far as he will show himself transformed, transfigured.
• John 16, 17-19: The lack of understanding of the disciples. In the meantime, some disciples do not succeed to understand what this absence signifies, means, that is to say, his going to the Father. They experience a certain disturbance regarding the words of Jesus and they express this asking four questions, joined together in one same expression: “What he is saying, what does it mean?” Other times the reader has listened to the questions of Peter, of Philip, of Thomas. And of Judah, not Iscariot, and now those disciples who ask for an explanation. The disciples do not succeed to understand what he is speaking about. The disciples have not understood how Jesus can be seen again by them if he goes to the Father (vv.16-19). But the question seems to be concentrated on the expression “a short time” that for the reader seems to be a very long time that never ends, especially when one has anguish and sadness. In fact, the time of sadness does not pass away. An answer of Jesus is expected, but the Evangelist places a repetition of the same question as before: “You are asking one another what I meant by saying: “In a short time you will no longer see me; and then a short time later you will see me again?” (v. 19).
• John 16, 20: The response of Jesus. In fact Jesus does not respond to the question asked: “What does in a short time, mean?”, but he invites them to trust. It is true that the disciples will be tried, tested, they will suffer very much, they will be alone in a hostile situation, abandoned in a world which rejoices because of the death of Jesus, but, he assures them that their sadness will be changed into joy. To the time of sadness is opposed a time in which everything will be overturned. That opposing clause “but your sadness will be transformed into joy”, underlines such a change of perspective. For the reader it is evident that the expressions “a short time”. “in a short time” correspond to that instant or moment in which the situation is overturned, but up to that moment everything will be of sadness and trial.
In last instance, the disciples receive from Jesus a promise of happiness, of joy; in virtue of that instant in which the difficult situation is overturned, to which “his own”, the ecclesial community are subjected, they will enter into a reality of the world enlightened by the resurrection.  
4) PERSONAL QUESTIONS
• Am I convinced that the moment of trial, of suffering will pass away and He will come back to be with me?”
• «You will be weeping and wailing, but your sorrow will turn into joy”. What effect do these words of Jesus have in your human events? How do you live your moments of sadness and of anguish?
5) CONCLUDING PRAYER
The whole wide world has seen
the saving power of our God.
Acclaim the Lord, all the earth,
burst into shouts of joy! (Ps 98,3-4)