• Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

The Ascension of the Lord (A)

"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me."

At the Vigil Mass:

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 68(67):33, 35 — “You kingdoms of the earth, sing to God; praise the Lord, who ascends above the highest heavens; His majesty and might are in the skies, alleluia.”

First Reading: Acts 1:1-11 — “As the Apostles were looking on, Jesus was lifted up.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9 — “God mounts His throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.”

Second Reading: Eph 1:17-23 — “God seated Jesus at His right hand in the heavens.”

Alleluia: Mt 28:19a, 20b — “Alleluia, alleluia. Go and teach all nations, says the Lord; I am with you always, until the end of the world. Alleluia, alleluia.”

Gospel: Mt 28:16-20 — “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.”

Communion Antiphon: Heb 10:12 — “Christ, offering a single sacrifice for sins, is seated for ever at God’s right hand, alleluia.”

At the Mass during the Day:

Entrance Antiphon: Acts 1:11 — “Men of Galilee, why gaze in wonder at the heavens? This Jesus whom you saw ascending into heaven will return as you saw Him go, alleluia.”

First Reading, Responsorial Psalm, Second Reading, Alleluia, and Gospel are the same as for the Vigil Mass.

Communion Antiphon: Mt 28:20 — “Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age, alleluia.”

We are in the middle of the “graduation season.” And while COVID-19 may have changed the way celebrate, it doesn’t make the achievements any different. All around us, students, their families, and friends are celebrating the accomplishments of those who have completed one step or another in their education. We mark these transitions all the way from kindergartners taking their first steps into formal education to doctoral students whose graduation may mark completion of decades of schooling. For almost all of these graduates and those around them, there is a bittersweet quality to these celebrations as one phase of life ends and another begins.

Transitions always involve both a departure from one often-comfortable place or way of living and stepping into some unknown of a new way of being … either from changed circumstances, a changed location, or a different lifestyle.

Jesus had been with the disciples for three years, and they had learned a great deal from Him. He had taught that the reign of God was in their midst. He had touched those in need to bring them healing. He had traveled, continually staying on the move when others wanted Him to settle down and become an earthly ruler. The disciples had followed Him, experienced His healing touch, and heard the lessons He taught. No doubt, they did not want to see Him leave them.

After His Passion, Death, and Resurrection, being “with Jesus” as a disciple had changed drastically. For the 40 days of Lent, through Holy Week and for the last 40 days since the Resurrection, the Church has remembered that transition ... from being with the human Jesus to knowing the risen Lord. Through His Passion, Jesus offered the ultimate instruction on the humility and love of God. With each of His Resurrection appearances, Jesus touched the lives of His disciples by announcing peace and God’s willingness to forgive sins and betrayals. Hopefully, even though we did not celebrate Holy Week and the Easter Season formally in church, He has touched our lives in 2020 as well. Today at His Ascension, Jesus announces a dramatic change in what it means to be with Him and in our role as His disciples. As the events were unfolding, the disciples had to be both a little saddened and probably frightened.

Jesus taught the ultimate lesson about God’s power with His Resurrection … as He had taught the ultimate lesson about God’s humility with His Passion. Jesus completes His teaching by the full revelation of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus announces His power to touch not a few lives, but the lives of all of His disciples, through the working of the Holy Spirit. Jesus commissions us … that is, Jesus announces that ... from now on, we must be the ones to teach others that the reign of God is in our midst … that we must be the ones to touch the lives of others with the healing power of God’s presence … and we must be the ones to travel about, sharing this Good News and “making disciples of all nations.” In an act of great humility, Jesus announces that God trusts us to continue the work He began. The disciples present on the mountain had “graduated” from His three-year course of instruction, and we are near graduation from the Lent-and-Easter refresher course given by the Church. For us, graduation of a sort comes next week at Pentecost.

Graduation has never meant the end of learning, but rather the beginning of learning in a new way. That’s why graduation is also known as commencement … a beginning. We never completely comprehend the power and the humility of God in calling us not only to hear the Good News of salvation, but also to be part of the proclamation of that Good News to others. Our proclamation commences again and again each week when we gather around the table of the Lord ... even if right now that is via a live-streamed Mass ... to say that we believe that Jesus is indeed with us always, until the end of time … in the Words of Sacred Scripture, in His Body, the Church ... and in His Body, the Eucharist.

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