The Feast of the Ascension has got to be one of the most dramatic in the liturgical year. Not perhaps very dramatic in its liturgy which is the same as any other Sunday; but dramatic in what it is all about: the lifting up of the Risen Jesus to his place in heaven. Our Discussion Questions for June 5, 2011 will guide your Sunday Bible Study sessions with family, friends and church groups.
Your personal radar should be warning you that this Sunday you are walking into awesome country. For this is the only Gospel where the Teacher names Himself "Jesus Christ."
Jesus Ascends the Throne
This week the Church celebrates the Lord's triumphal entry into the heavenly Jerusalem, the true and eternal City of God. Marcellino D'Ambrosio, Ph.D. points out that the inhabitants of this city did not cry “hosanna” one day and “crucify him” the next. Suffering is over. Death has been defeated. There is nothing left for Christ but glory.
In the account given in the Acts of the Apostles he was literally lifted up from the earth to heaven. And we can imagine the extraordinary impact that this had on the disciples as he was lifted up right in front of them until a cloud took him from their sight. The mystery of saying goodbye is really the mystery of the Ascension. Fr. Ron Rolheiser says this is the most under-understood mystery both inside and outside of religion. Ascension is about going away so that our loved ones can fully receive our spirit. And this is something the apostles have accepted and believed. It is, Fr. John Foley, S.J. explains, the power of God’s love even amidst departures and loss.
Fr. Joseph Pellegrino says this last line in the Mathew's Gospel is really the theme of the entire Gospel, “Know that I am with you always.” 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.
“Whoever sees me sees the Father”
Fr. James Gilhooley says to know the only true God means much, much more than knowing Him with one's brainpan. It is to know Him with heart and the spirit. And it is in praying with the Spirit that we come to know more deeply that Jesus came into the world to manifest the glory of the Father's name through love, ultimately the act of love on the cross. Something about Jesus was so wide open to God that the two were completely at one. “Whoever sees me sees the Father,” he said. Fr. John Foley, S. J. says that is a very deep description of such love.
Fr. Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B. tells us that to be a disciple in our world today means to manifest the same divine glory through love so that all may come to enjoy the gift of eternal life. So as we celebrate the Ascension - Jesus' entronement at the Father's right hand - Fr. Phil Bloom tells us we also say, "Long live Christ the King!"
Make Disciples of All Nations
Christ having completed his work on this earth returns to be with the Father. Fr. James Gilhooley explains that the work of salvation is then transferred from the direct initiative of Christ to the work of the Church in the world. This is the handover moment and it is completed by the Feast of Pentecost which marks the day when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the Apostles and the work of the Church really begins. This work is to proclaim the good news of salvation to all the world. Fr. Orlando, Sapuay, M.S. says the gospel is the power of God, the power to forgive sins, to heal, to deliver from evil and oppression, and to restore life.
But first, let us consider the reality of this small group of apostles and disciples commissioned on the mountain in Galilee. Could any group of people be more human, more ordinary, more dysfunctional, more unpromising? How much more obvious could human frailty be than in this group who, Fr. Thomas Rosica points out, would become the "pillars" of our Church!
As He ascends, Jesus tells the disciples to wait for this power He will send. But notice that he does not tell them to wait passively for the rapture. He does not instruct them to pour over Bible prophecies, debating about how and when he will return. In fact in Acts 1:11, after the Lord ascends out of their sight, the angels ask why the disciples just stand there, staring into space. The waiting is not to be a squandering of precious time. It is waiting for a purpose, implying that the disciples should be getting on with the job that Jesus has given them.
It is the same mission that our Lord passes on to us today. College student Danielle Stewart observes that although Jesus ascended, it does not mean that we are to stand idle. We have been mandated to evangelize, to spread the Gospel to all nations. Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio explains how we used to think that evangelization was something that happened in mission countries far away, carried out by priests and religious. But the Second Vatican Council told us that our own neighborhoods are mission territory, and that every single Catholic is called to be an evangelist.
The Holy Trinity, the Sacred Heart & Catholic Funerals
This Gospel story is a clear illustration of the mystery of the Holy Spirit. The notion is unfortunately widespread that the mystery of the Blessed Trinity is a mystery of mathematics, that is to say, of how one can equal three. In one of the clearest explanations of the Blessed Trinity ever written, Frank Sheed says the Trinity is three persons in one nature.
Now here's one deep theological question for your reflection - where is Jesus' body after the Ascension? Where is the physical body of Jesus? Must we believe that he is “up there” in space somewhere? Can his body be in heaven, if heaven is not “a physical place in the clouds?” It is quite an interesting discourse. And if you happen to turn to the Bible for the answer to this and other questions, we offer you a few simple dos and don’ts that will help you bring the Bible more clearly into your daily lives.
And have you noticed how it has become commonplace to turn funerals into casual canonizations? “Bob is in a better place,” we’re told, which can only mean Heaven. But because it is certain that the imperfect go through Purgatory before getting to Heaven, it is easy to see that casual canonizations are not at all compassionate, but are in fact very cruel. They deprive the faithful departed of many prayers and good works that could have helped them get through Purgatory sooner, and they encourage spiritual sloth in those present at the funeral.
Also, just a reminder that the month of June is traditionally dedicated to foster devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Fr. John Zuhlsdorf suggests you might give consideration to what you may do in your own devotional practices. Don’t be afraid to be pious.
Suffering & God's Providence
We are all struck by the fury and devastation caused by tornadoes in the Midwest this year. And we are left to wonder why and how God allows it. Msgr. Charles Pope offers a meditation on the mystery of God’s Providence.
When we're presented with a challenging circumstance, when the road gets a little bumpy and the things aren't going the way we wish they would, many of us clam up. Dwija Borobia shares her story. On the Friday before Mother's Day, her husband was laid off. She discusses how this life challenge taught her to trust God like a child and receive the peace of Christ.
For years Gary Zimak neglected to visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament even though the chapel was within walking distance of his house. But now he find himself looking forward to visiting Him each week for adoration. In fact, he often stops to say “hi” for a few minutes on the way home from work. "I Finally Get It!" he exclaims as he talks about how peaceful and blessed he feels to be in the presence of Our Lord.
From the Vatican, Pope Benedict points to Moses as a model of intercessory prayer. Speaking at the June 1 general audience, he said intercessory prayer helps us to grow in deeper knowledge of God and his mercy and makes us more capable of loving others in a self-sacrificial way.
Love, Parenting & Nip/Tuck & the NBA Finals
Here's one for the young adults and teens in our audience. Ever heard of the phrase, "Love at First Sight?" Young Catholic adult Jerome Placido says he doesn't believe in it. Talking about the way he is going about finding "the one," the idea of "Love at First Sight" isn't an option. He says it's more like "Love before first sight."
And here's one for parents. Perhaps the timing is right that today, midway between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, we say few kind words on behalf of the sort of parents many of us either are or once were — parents, that is, who are not Wonder Mom and Super Dad but only good enough. Here's a guide to 'good enough' parenting.
Nip/Tuck/Sin? Simcha Fisher has definite opinions about vasectomies and men having elective cosmetic surgery. But what about cosmetic surgery in general? Is it a sin? He starts with what Catholic Answers says on the topic and moves on to his own discourse. Check it out.
Finally, if you've been following the NBA finals, you know that Dallas just tied the series at 1-1 when they pulled out an exciting victory in Miami last night. A friendly wager between the bishops of Dallas and Miami is on and stirring interest and fun in the Catholic communities. Bishop Kevin J. Farrell of the Diocese of Dallas took the bet offered by Archbishop Thomas Wenski of the Archdiocese of Miami.
Archbishop Wenski has thrown the ecclesiastical gauntlet by offering Key lime pies and stone crabs from Monroe County, a box of cigars handmade in Miami-Dade County, and a fish bowl containing Fort Lauderdale sand, water from the Atlantic Ocean, and shells from the beach; some ocean breezes and oranges will also be included if the Miami Heat lose. Bishop Farrell of the Diocese of Dallas has accepted Archbishop Wenski’s challenge and is offering BBQ ribs, tortillas and salsa, deep dish pecan pies and a “Don’t Mess with Texas” cap if the Mavericks lose in this NBA final. Game 3 is in Dallas on Sunday.
Another eventful week in our Catholic World. Have a great and blessed new week.
Keep the Faith. Peace.
Publisher & Editor in chief
BURNING QUESTION: Would you evangelize door to door?
FEATURED BLOG: The Cruelty of Casual Canonizations
PASTORAL HISPANA: Jesus sube al cielo porque confia en nosotros
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