Today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension, after Easter we believe Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. In the past it was celebrated on the Thursday of the Sixth week of Easter. Fifty years ago, the feast of the Ascension was moved from Thursday to Sunday, in particular for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and since 1981 our Diocese and for most dioceses in the U.S. Only the ecclesiastical provinces of Hartford, Boston, New York, Newark, Omaha, and Philadelphia retain it on Thursday of the Sixth week of Easter.
The chronology of dating the Ascension to forty days after Easter exists only in the Acts of the Apostles. In the Gospel of Luke, the Ascension appears to have taken place much earlier, even on Easter Day. The original ending of Mark’s Gospel did not include the Ascension at all, and it can only be inferred from Matthew’s conclusion. It seems this became a universal feast by the fifth century.
Two authors Stephen Bevans and Roger Schroeder suggest the following for our reflection on Ascension: “the church of Christ does not so much have a mission as the mission of Christ has a church.” Like the apostles, and all disciples, it is Christ’s mission, Christ’s work, that we are invited to take up. We have to figure out what part of the work is ours. That work changes throughout our lives.
As I have written before, through the Spirit we are given a variety of gifts, first at Baptism, then at Confirmation, and the natural or developed gifts we use in our lives each day. We know that the Advocate has chosen us and given us the gifts we need to serve God and others every day. What are the gifts God has given to you? Some are self-evident like life, breath, and the ability to think and function in our respective vocations that may include school, work and even in retirement, how you choose to spend your time. Other gifts and talents emerge out of virtues: compassion, empathy, peacemaking, arbitration, mediation, mentoring, tutoring, giving example, and modeling Christian behavior.
Recognizing we are chosen and called by name, how is God choosing you to go forth and bear much fruit this day? How is Christ calling you now to “love one another?” Let us reflect on these thoughts in our daily prayer and see how our gifts and talents translate into action as we anticipate celebrating Pentecost next Sunday.
Easter Blessings – Father Larry