The Ascension of the Lord
Sunday Church at Home

during the Coronavirus Pandemic

Preach the Gospel to All Creation.  

The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

 Leader:          In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 All reply:        Amen

 Leader:          Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 All reply:        Blessed be God for ever

 

Leader:          Christ’s ascension is not a postscript to the resurrection or a warm-up act for Pentecost. It is a moment of unique grace within a process beginning with the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus through which the followers of Jesus come to understand and experience the full meaning of the unfolding of the kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven”.

 

LITURGY OF THE WORD

 First Reading: Acts 1:1-11

 Introduction to the reading: Today’s passage takes us back to the beginning verses of the Acts of the Apostles and sets forth the themes that Luke is going to develop throughout this, the longest book of the New Testament. His major theme is the role of the Holy Spirit, who enable the apostles to be effective witnesses to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is mentioned 57 times in the Acts of the Apostles.

 The beginning of the Acts of the Apostles

In the first book, O Theophilus,
I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach,
until the day when he was taken up,
after he had given commandment through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.
To them he presented himself alive after his passion
by many proofs,
appearing to them during forty days,
and speaking of the kingdom of God.
And while staying with them
he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for the promise of the Father,
which, he said, “you heard from me,
for John baptized with water,
but before many days
you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

So when they had come together, they asked him,
“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons
which the Father has fixed by his own authority.
But you shall receive power
when the Holy Spirit has come upon you;
and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem
and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth.”

And when he had said this,
as they were looking on, he was lifted up,
and a cloud took him out of their sight.
And while they were gazing into heaven as he went,
behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said,
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?
This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven,
will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

The word of the Lord.

 

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 47:2-3.6-7.8-9

Let us pray the Responsorial Psalm:

R/:    God has gone up with shouts of joy.
The Lord goes up with trumpet blast.

 All peoples clap your hands.
Cry to God with shouts of joy!
For the Lord, the Most High, is awesome,
the great king over all the earth.

God goes up with shouts of joy.

The Lord goes up with trumpet blast.
Sing praise for God, sing praise.
Sing praise to our king; sing praise.

God is king of all the earth.
Sing praise with all your skill.
God reigns over the nations.
God sits upon his holy throne

R/:    God has gone up with shouts of joy.
The Lord goes up with trumpet blast.

 Second Reading: Ephesians 4:1-13

Introduction to the reading: Today’s passage from Ephesians was chosen because of its reference to Jesus’ ascent to heaven, which is contrasted with his descent to the dead. Early Christians believed that those who died before the coming of Jesus awaited redemption in a shadowy existence described here as the lower regions of the earth. It is our Christian tradition that immediately after h is death, Jesus went to these people to announce that they had been saved.

A reading from the Letter of St Paul to the Ephesians

Brothers and sisters:
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord,
beg you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling
to which you have been called,
with all lowliness and meekness,
with patience, forbearing one another in love,
eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
There is one body and one Spirit,
just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call,
one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of us all,
who is above all and through all and in all.
But grace was given to each of us
according to the measure of Christ’s gift.

Therefore it is said,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men and women.”
(In saying, “He ascended,”
what does it mean but that he had also descended
into the lower parts of the earth?
He who descended is he who also ascended
far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
And his gifts were that some should be apostles,
some prophets, some evangelists,
some pastors and teachers,
for the equipment of the saints,
for the work of ministry,
for building up the body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of the faith
and of the knowledge of the Son of God,
to maturity,
to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.

The word of the Lord.

 Alleluia. Alleluia.
Go and make disciples of all nations, says the Lord; I am with you always, to the close of the age.
Alleluia.

 

Gospel: Mark 16:15-20

A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark

At that time:
[Jesus, appearing to the Eleven,] said to them,
“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.
The one who believes and is baptized will be saved;
but the one who does not believe will be condemned.
And these signs will accompany those who believe:
in my name they will cast out demons;
they will speak in new tongues;
they will pick up serpents,
and if they drink any deadly thing,
it will not hurt them;
they will lay their hands on the sick,
and they will recover.”

So then the Lord Jesus,
after he had spoken to them,
was taken up into heaven,
and sat down at the right hand of God.
And they went forth and preached everywhere,
while the Lord worked with them
and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it.
Amen.

The Gospel of the Lord

 

Reflection on the Readings

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

 

Homily

It was the feast of the Ascension and the priest was talking about Jesus ascending to heaven. Then he wanted to describe heaven and he said: “We bring nothing with us when we die. There is no money in heaven! People in heaven have no money!” The whole congregation was quiet, till a little girl whispered to her mother loud enough for all to hear: “Mommy, we’re in Heaven already!” 😊

Before we get to heaven, the gospel describes the signs that will accompany those who believe:

“In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues;
they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing,
it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick,
and they will recover.”

A while ago I saw a travelogue on TV visited some rural areas in the Deep South of the USA. The program showed some churches whose ministers and members of the congregation, as a test of their faith, would plunge their hands into a box of rattlesnakes, pull one out and hold it before the congregation. Others would drink strychnine poison. Why not, isn’t that what Jesus is saying, in today’s gospel, believers will be able to do as we go about proclaiming the gospel? The rural communities that performed those tests of faith saw their ability to do these feats as a sign that the living Christ was in their midst fulfilling his promises to them. Some were able to handle snakes and drink poison and survive. Their community supported them and celebrated their faith. Others suffered snake bites and the effects of drinking deadly poisons…some even died. But even then, their communities took the failure on themselves as a congregation, they didn’t fault the individual preacher or believer’s faith. They saw the failure as a sign that the whole community needed to turn more fully to the Lord.

We belong to a church community that interprets these signs of belief in another way. I hear in today’s gospel a promise that signs will accompany believers. In Jesus’ time, there were large cracks between the human world, what we can could see, measure and explain, and God’s world. Illnesses and negative human conditions that were beyond their ability to explain or heal, were credited to evil spirits and demons. So, for example, a person suffering from mental disease was said to be “possessed.” Since the afflicted weren’t their usual selves, the community reasoned, it must be the fault of an evil spirit possessing the person.

Nowadays, science, modern medicine and drugs have filled in a lot of the cracks between what was once unknown, mysterious and frightening and was in the realm of the measurable and explainable. So, then, where is God in all this and what about Jesus’ mission and the signs he promises we will perform as a testimony to our faith?

Jesus tells us we will be able to “drive out demons.” New medical drugs now can help schizophrenia and bi-polar disorders. But there are more powerful demons medication can’t deal with, that concerned Jesus and continue to require believers to confront and drive out.

For example, the demon poverty: we see in South Africa a growing gap between rich and poor. The demon of ignorance: it holds people captive and locked in darkness, superstition and prejudice. There are people who belief the earth is flat, there are people who oppose vaccinations and pass on lies about it. The demon of war: it seduces the powerful into thinking that problems can be solved quickly by force. The demon of racism: In South Africa it still raises its divisive head in hateful behaviour. The demons of homophobia, sexism and agism and all the other “isms” that permeate our institutions and churches.

These are demons that are not driven out with a prayer of exorcism – they need a different prayer. They may be driven out by a prayer for conversion,  a prayer to have our own hearts and attitudes changed; a prayer for wisdom, to know where and how we must get involved to do something; a prayer for strength, to keep us in the struggle against these demons over the long haul; a prayer for courage, as we face opposition; a prayer for hope, as we deal with discouragement and lack of quick progress.

Jesus says we will lay on hands to cure the sick. We do this in our prayers and sacramental anointing of the sick. Last week we had a healing Mass for our senior parishioners. It was time for healing our bodies and souls, our minds and hearts in receiving the Anointing of the Sick. It is extremely important that we stay in contact with our senior parishioners through visits and gentle touch – “laying on of hands”. We lay hands on the sick in many ways. We stay by the side of someone struggling with illness, despair, loneliness, addiction, divorce and death. Someone said to me once, “I don’t always know what I am to do – I just show up.” That’s a way of “laying hands on the sick,” just show up.

That’s also one way to face the powerful forces that surround us and need to be driven out: we “show up.”  The risen Christ acts through his disciples who show up, giving them: wisdom when serious problems and issues arise; power over the evil forces of unjust systems, policies and governments; a healing touch, when someone just needs a faithful presence standing with them in the valley of the shadow of death.

I am not good at waiting and often we all can get impatient. Waiting for the coronavirus vaccine, waiting for traffic lights, for our children to come home from the dance, with our aging parents at the doctor’s office, for the strife to end in the Middle East – and the list goes on. Waiting is not what we do well. Why is waiting so frustrating? Because it means someone else, or some other power is in charge, not us. And being out of control and subject to other forces reminds us of our finiteness, and vulnerability.

Jesus tells the disciples to “wait for the promise of the Father.” They cannot go off spreading the news of his resurrection on their own. They are a small, fearful community that has no power on its own. As the Gospels showed, they have a tendency to get Jesus’ message all wrong. What’s more, they flee when things get tough. On their own they will be misguided, perhaps engage in ways that are not of Jesus. We have made some pretty big mistakes in our history about Jesus’ message. Our history has tales of promoting our religion by forced baptisms and by trampling over the dignity and cultures of other peoples. And like the original disciples, we have been cowardly when courage and resistance to force was required.

So the disciples and we must “hold our horses,” restrain ourselves and wait for God’ promise to be fulfilled. What’s more, the fulfillment will come at God’s timing, not our own. We tend to be action-oriented. We have our projects and plans, we want to get on with things. Even when our plans and intentions are noble and serve a good purpose, how does God figure into them? Do we know? Have we asked? Do we wait for an answer, some direction?

From today’s reading from the Acts of the Apostles”

While meeting with the apostles,

Jesus enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem

but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you heard me speak.”

Reflection:

Jesus has gifted us with the same powerful Spirit that animated and sustained him, not only through his preaching and healing ministry, but through his long suffering and death. Thanks to the Spirit, we are called and empowered to be modern witnesses to the living Christ, who is reaching out in a new age to do through us, what he did in his lifetime – preach the gospel, heal the sick and bring people back to God.

So we ask ourselves:

  • What gifts has God given me to use in the service of Jesus’ gospel?
  • How am I exercising these gifts now?

 

Prayer of the Faithful

 Leader:          As members of Christ’s body, gifted by his Spirit to be witnesses to the Gospel, we bring before our loving Creator the needs of our Church and of our suffering world.

Reader:

We pray for Pope Francis and the bishops, successors of the apostles (pause) that they may proclaim the Gospel without fear and live it in truth and love.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for a world crying out for good news: (pause) may all who suffer and long for God’s mercy find it through our care of them.

LORD HEAR US

 We pray for those who govern South Africa: (pause) that they may learn to see leadership as service and to make decisions in favour of the common good and of those most in need.

LORD HEAR US

 We pray for all those in our parish receiving Holy Communion for the first time today: (pause)

may they always try to live like Jesus and to grow more like Him as they follow Him each day of their lives.
LORD HEAR US.

We pray for all Catholic schools and the many people who advance their mission. May they inspire those who seek to grow in faith, knowledge and service of others.
LORD HEAR US.

 We pray for all who are imprisoned whether in physical captivity or by addictions of any kind: (pause) that they may experience in their lives the liberating and healing power of God.

LORD HEAR US

 We pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic: (pause) that God will give strength to those caring for the sick, working for a cure, distributing the vaccine, and educating people about daily health practices.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.

LORD HEAR US

We pray for Sr Gemma Lawlor who died during the week.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.

And let perpetual light shine on her.

May she rest in peace.  Amen

Leader:          Let us pray our prayer on the Ascension of our Lord:

God, our heavenly Father,
you have glorified Christ our Saviour
with his resurrection from the dead
and ascension into heaven,
where he sits at your right hand.
May we be inspired to spread the Gospel message in word and deed,
according to your will for us.
May we do so joyfully, with your help, your guidance, and your grace.
Help us to seek what is above,
and give us possession of your everlasting kingdom.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen

 

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.

 

My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.

 

 CONCLUDING RITE

 Leader:          Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:

 All say:          Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader:          God of power and might,
in the mystery of the ascension
you have raised up and glorified your Son
and exalted our humanity at your right hand.

Confirm the good news your Church proclaims,
so that when Christ returns in glory
all nations may be gathered into the kingdom,
where he lives and reigns with you now and always
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

All:                  Amen.

 Blessing for the Ascension of the Lord

 Leader:          On this day Christ, the only Son,

passed into the highest heaven

to take his place with the Father in majesty

and to open the way for us.

May almighty God grant

that, where Christ is, we also may be.

All:                  Amen.

 

Leader:          May God grant

that when Christ comes to judge the world

his face may shine upon us in lasting mercy.

All:                  Amen.

 

Leader:          May God grant us the joyous fulfilment of Christ’s promise

to remain with you even to the end of time.

All:                  Amen.

 

Leader:          May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

 All:                  Amen.

 

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