The Ascension of the Lord (B)
Ascension in not just a feast that happens to fall in Eastertide: it is an integral part of the Easter mystery. Remember the Lord’s words at the Last Supper: “I am going to prepare a place for, and after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me.” The resurrection presumes the Lord’s return to the Father. This is therefore a feast of hope: our hope in the Lord’s return, as he went. Our hope that he will take us with him, when our bodies are raised as his was. Our hope that we will take our place in heaven, where he sits on the Father’s right.
Notes for Readers
The writer is Saint Luke, and the first lines of this reading are a link between the Gospel which bears his name and this book. The Gospel dealt with everything Jesus said and did until he was taken up into heaven; Acts will tell the story of what happened next. The first paragraph is a summary of what happened in the forty days between the resurrection and today: Jesus “showed himself alive to them” (the Apostles) and instructed them. In the second paragraph they have gathered together (later Luke tells us it was on top of the Mount of Olives) to receive their final instruction – a promise of power, when the Holy Spirit will come down upon them. And with this power will come a task: to witness to all of this throughout the whole world. Then, in the mysterious last paragraph, Jesus disappears from sight, and a second promise is made: that he will return. One interesting point: this is one of only a handful of occasions when the words of the Lord Jesus appear outside the Gospel. You, as the reader, today have an even greater responsibility, because you proclaim not just the words of the prophets, or Peter or Paul, but of the Lord Jesus himself. If in your prayer and preparation you thin about this it will give your proclamation a power that will enter the minds and hearts of those listening.
Second Reading: Ephesians 1:17-23
In the first half of this reading, there are three key concepts: hope, glory and power, which are gifts for us. Where do we find this hope and glory? What power has God exercised for us? Paul gives the answer in the second half (beginning from “This you can tell…”) We know about these things because of the resurrection and ascension. Because Christ has been raised, because Christ now “fills the whole creation”, THEREFORE we know that God gives us hope, God promises us glory, and God exercises power on our behalf. This is a difficult reading to proclaim: you must understand the way the two halves fit together. If you catch the passionate quality of the second sentence, it will help to get this reading across: underline “so that you can see…”, “rich glories” and “infinitely great”, and then in the next line emphasise “This you can tell…”
Alternative Second Reading: Ephesians 4:1-13
Even by Saint Paul’s standards, this is not an easy reading! Paul is trying to make the point that Jesus ascended because first he descended to be with us. While it might sound rather obvious, this is the origin of the grace that binds us together as the Church, the grace that determined our role in the Church. You will have to spend quiet a bit of time with this reading beforehand, in order to get the phrasing just right, and especially to bring out the central part of the reading which links it with the feast we celebrate today.