Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord: An Assuring Goodbye
Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Responsorial Psalm Ps 47:2-3,6-7,8-9; Ephesians 1:17-23, 22-23 Or Hebrews 9:24-28,10:19-23; Gospel Matthew 28:16-20.
Theme: An Assuring Goodbye
The first reading tells how Jesus was lifted up while the apostles looked. In the second reading, St. Paul prayed God to enlighten the minds of the elect to understand the mysteries revealed in Christ. The Gospel reading recounts the Great Commission (GC) Christ gave entrusted to the Apostles and the Church. Jesus says, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The GC was given with warm assurances of divine endorsement that God will be with his Church until the end of time. Jesus’ assuring goodbye positions us to propagate the faith in word and deed until he returns in glory.
Friends in Christ, on Ascension Thursday, we recall the timeless lyrical lines of the queen of R and B, Celine Dion: “Goodbye’s the saddest word I’ll ever hear. Goodbye’s the last time I will hold you near. Someday you’ll say that word and I will cry. It’ll break my heart to hear you say goodbye.” Perhaps a list of scenarios would help us to better understand the power that lies in the words “Good-Bye.”
First, a child leaves home for school: I recall leaving home at the age of 12 for the Minor Seminary in Barkin Ladi, Plateau State, north-central, Nigeria. It was an emotional moment because that was the first time I was going to be away from friends and family for six years. Even the promise of periodic holidays could not stop the tears. Missing home food and stories of seniors used the whip did not help matters. Thankfully today, that belongs to the pages of history.
Second, call to the priestly or religious life: No one who puts the plough on the ground and looks back is worthy of the kingdom (Lk 9:62). However, for many of us who took to the priestly or religious life, the decision to say goodbye to friends and family was an uphill task. At some point, those who could not endure had to back out.
Third, a young man or woman separates from his or her own family to settle down: At the instance of the scriptural command, marriage makes people separate from their families to start a new life (Eph 5:31). It is often tough for a young woman to say goodbye to her biological family that nursed, suckled and educated her. The tears of wedding nights tell the story more.
Fourth, a breadwinner goes in search of greener pastures: Call it brain drain or search for a better life, people have had to say goodbye to their spouses and kids for the sake of more money, professionalism or both. Such goodbyes especially for those who would have to travel abroad, come with intense outbursts as relations are often unsure of the outcome. They are often associated with sadness, confusion and uncertainty.
Background and Summary of the Readings
The first reading (Acts 1:1-11) tells how Jesus was lifted up while the apostles looked. It dislcoses that as he vanished into the sky, two men in white who stood near them assured: “Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven – will come back in the same way as you have seen him go…”
In the second reading (Ephesians 1:17-23), St. Paul prayed God to enlighten the minds of the elect to understand the mysteries revealed in Christ “the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation,” with an unwavering hope.
The Gospel reading (Matthew 28:16-20) recounts the Great Commission (GC) Christ gave his Apostles and the Church which enjoys divine mandate and is to be executed in the name of the “Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus further charged them: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” The GC was given with warm assurances of divine endorsement that God will be with his Church until the end of time.
- Proclaim Christ: Since Lumen Gentium, Gaudium et Spes and Ad Gentes underline that God created us “To know him, love him, serve him in this world and be happy with him in the next,” we are charged to boldly proclaim Christ to all peoples (Redemptoris Missio 3) amidst the vicissitudes of life while we await his return in glory.
- Act with Authority: By saying “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” Jesus demands that we act with power and authority in all matters while acknowledging that we need a pull from above (divine power) and a push from bellow (human effort) to make it in life.
- Transmit the Faith: We are called to have an unwavering faith that would inspire us to spread the faith through encounter, witness, proclamation and charity especially to those in “desolate peripheries” who may be indifferent or hostile to us.
- Train the Young: At times when the young prefer entertainment to attending Holy Mass, we are charged to educate and train young people in vocational discernment to promote and foster their God-given gifts in the service of others by being Christians who are plunged “into the stream of witnesses God desires.”
- Support the Mission: Since “some give to the mission by going and others go to the mission by giving,” we are charged to support the evangelizing mission of the Church bearing in mind the gracious words of Pope Francis: “No one is poor as to be unable to give what they have, but first and foremost what they are.”
- The first reading tells how Jesus was lifted up while the apostles looked.
- In the second reading, St. Paul prayed God to enlighten the minds of the elect to understand the mysteries revealed in Christ.
- The Gospel reading recounts the Great Mission Christ gave his Apostles and the Church.
- All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
- The Great Commission was given with warm assurances of divine endorsement that God will be with his Church until the end of time.