The Ascension of the Lord – 21 May 2020

Gospel of the Day

Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.

Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge:

God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.

Matthew 28:16–20, The Message.

From the Shrine of Our Lady of Walsingham

Get ready for the whoosh

Today we’re celebrating Christ going home to Heaven. His mission on earth is accomplished. The angels are cheering at His return. The souls that were waiting for many years, since the beginning of human history, for Jesus to come and re-open the way to Heaven are celebrating too from their new and eternal home.

We are also thanking Jesus for the first thing that He did, and now continues to do, as soon as He got back to Heaven. Our Lord Jesus Christ is now at His Father’s right hand for ever, asking Him to help us get to Heaven too, and everyone we love. Likes our Lord promised at the Last Supper, He and the Father are sending the Holy Spirit to help us to get home by bringing us grace. The Lord has ascended and now the disciples are waiting for the “whoosh” of the Holy Spirit. 

In today’s First Reading, the disciples are still confused and have doubts, even though they have seen that the Lord has risen from the dead. They were expecting, like all of Israel expected, one big whoosh right away: they thought the Kingdom of Heaven was coming right now. They were waiting for one last bang and for everyone to be in Heaven and evil to be ended. They ask Jesus when it is going to happen. Jesus answers: wait for the Holy Spirit to come, and they still didn’t get it, which is why the angels have to tell them to move on. When Jesus tells them it is not for them to know the times or seasons, he’s teaching them what the whoosh of the Holy Spirit is like: unexpected and big. The disciples thought there would be one big whoosh and everyone would be in Heaven. Jesus is telling them to hold on to and be ready for the whoosh.

In today’s Epistle, St Paul prays that we, too, receive this “whoosh” of the Holy Spirit when Christ arrives home. This “whoosh” will bestow on us wisdom and revelation, not just on the level of knowledge, but in our hearts as well. St Paul describes where Our Lord is headed to day: to His Father’s right hand, where He’ll be put in charge of all things and be above all other powers. It also says He is being given to us, the Church, as head over all things. 

In today’s Gospel, our blessed Lord prepared the disciples, and us, for Pentecost. He may be ascending soon, but the Holy Spirit is coming in force. In the Gospel today, and for the next days, we’re waiting for that first big whoosh of the Holy Spirit that came to the Church on Pentecost, which is what we’ll celebrate on Pentecost Sunday. Our Lord tells the Apostles to go out and baptise the whole world. When our Lord Jesus Christ was baptised, the Holy Spirit whooshed down on him. Whenever we receive the Sacraments, whenever we pray, and whenever we love each other the same thing happens to us. 

The Holy Spirit also fulfils the promise our Lord made in the Gospel today: by the power of the Holy Spirit the bread and wine today in Mass will become the Eucharist—the Body and Blood of Christ—and Jesus will remain with us in the Eucharist “until the end of the age” when he will come with the last big whoosh that will bring us all home to Heaven. 

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The whoosh of a garden hose 

The whoosh of the Holy Spirit is like a garden hose: when you’re watering plants, or washing your car, or planning to play on your lawn, somebody has to turn on the hose, and somebody has to guide it, or the water goes splashing all over the place. 

Our Lord Jesus Christ is ascending to Heaven to turn on the hose and let the Holy Spirit bring the flow of grace. That whoosh of the Holy Spirit comes out strong and in all kinds of ways: like water from a hose it cools you when you’re hot and thirsty, it washes away the dirt and sweat, and it wakes you if you’re sleepy. That all depends on you holding on to the hose and pointing it where it needs to go, or else everyone and everything just gets splashed and wet and you waste a lot of water

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Point the hose where it needs to go

If your parents tell you to wash your car, and you just have water fights on the the lawn, and get all wet, the car remains dirty, you are in big trouble, and the job doesn’t get done. 

The Holy Spirit wants to do something with the whoosh, so you need to listen to him and point the right way for the grace He brings to be effective. We keep that “hose” steady so that the grace can do what God wants it to do, and it helps us and others get to Heaven. The Apostles guided the hose, and do do we: Jesus sent the Holy Spirit through the Apostles, to the other disciples, and to all the generations of disciples after them, and to us. The Holy Spirit whooshes in when we least expect it, so we must always be ready, we must live good lives so that we don’t block the hose by putting kinks in it and stopping the flow. 

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Readings:

Acts 1:1–11; Psalm 47:2–3, 6–9; Ephesians 1:17–23, Matthew 28:16–20

Collect of the Day

Grant, we pray, Almighty God,
that as we believe your only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ
to have ascended into the heavens;
so we in heart and mind may also ascend
and with him continually dwell;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

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