Today some dioceses celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension (the rest celebrated on Thursday) while others celebrate the Seventh Sunday of Easter. I will include a reflection on both in this post. Also, please help me continue this work by donating any amount to www.gofundme.com/sacerdotus or the paypal button here, thanks! God will reward you for your generosity.
Seventh Sunday of Easter
In the first reading, we read of Stephen, the first Deacon who was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5-6). He saw Jesus at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55, Romans 8:34). Stephen along with other Catholics were persecuted by Saul who would later become Paul (Acts 9). He was stoned to death. You can read more of him in this post: http://www.sacerdotus.com/2013/12/st-stephen-first-martyr-and-deacon.html. In Stephen, we see that the Holy Spirit and the world’s view are not compatible (Isaiah 55:8). Stephen was martyred for preaching the Gospel. The Holy Spirit working in Stephen demonstrated forgiveness and mercy towards the enemies of the faith. We too in the 21st century must be merciful and forgiving towards all, especially those who hate us and our faith. God is in control. We read this in the responsorial Psalm today. The Lord is King. He is the most high over all things (Ephesians 4:6). Stephen saw this first hand when he saw the heavens open and Christ standing at the right hand of God the Father. God is just, as the Psalm tells us today. He rules over everyone. Now, in the Psalm we read, “All gods are prostrate before Him.” Some may be wondering, “gods?” The Jews during this period were surrounded by many Pantheons of gods from other cultures. Henotheism was a concept held by many Hebrews at the time. This means that a theist believes in one God but acknowledges the existence of other gods. So the Hebrews thought that Yahweh was the God of the Hebrews while other peoples had their own gods. The concept of a one and only God still did not mature in them. We know that there are no other gods that actually exist. They exist only as concepts and names (Zeus, etc). There is only one God.
In the second reading, we read of the ‘Alpha and the Omega.” This is a title that Christ describes Himself as. He is the one who has no beginning and no end. God always existed (Exodus 3:14). No one created God. The reading reminds us that Christ is coming soon. No one knows when this will happen, but it will happen (Matthew 24:36). Those of us who suffer for the faith and are martyred are those who washed their robes and now have the right to the tree of life. We must make use of the Sacraments so we can ‘wash’ our ‘robes,’ so to speak. Christ left us His Church, a vicar, His Word and so forth in order to prepare us.
Finally in the Gospel, we read Jesus’ prayer. He is praying for us! Jesus says, “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word…” This is awesome if you think about it. Jesus prays that all may be one . Unfortunately, this is not the case today. We have so many divisions; so many people calling themselves ‘Christian’ while not being part of Christ’s Catholic Church. We must work to fix this and bring those sheep back to the one fold. Christian unity must be a big priority. We must do our best to get our friends from other Christian communities back home to Rome. This must be done with charity and mercy of course. We cannot go to them with an arrogant attitude by calling them heretics and what not like so-called ‘traditionalists’ love to do (1 Corinthians 9:16, 1 Timothy 4:12-16). This is not Christian. In His prayer, Jesus calls us a ‘gift’ from the Father. This is another awesome thing, in my opinion. We should meditate on this a realize the dignity of all human beings. All live is sacred and a gift from God. Let us pray for Christian unity just like Christ did and work to make this a reality.
Solemnity of the Ascension
The first reading reminds us of the events surrounding Christ’s passion, death, resurrection and ascension. Jesus appeared to the disciples for forty days, before this, He suffered and died on the cross (Luke 24:36-49, Matthew 27, John 20:1-10). Jesus promised the Holy Spirit to them and commanded them to preach the Gospel to all corners of the world (John 16:7, Matthew 28:19). After this, He ascended into heaven and will return in the same fashion. Jesus did not abandon us. He sent each one of us on a mission to prepare the world for His second coming. Yes, He could have stayed with us forever, but would that be a good idea? Think about it: If Christ stayed with humanity, then humanity would look at Him as some ‘Superman’ or miracle worker-genie instead of the loving savior. People will wait on Him and demand Him to perform miracles. Jesus wants us to grow in love and faith by ourselves freely without Him hovering over us like a hawk. This love and faith will be a genuine one because it will come freely from us. Moreover, Jesus is still with us in the Blessed Sacrament. He waits for us to visit Him daily. We must be patient and wait for the Lord. He sits on His throne as the Psalm today tells us. God is the great king over all the Earth. We must praise Him and thank Him for all things. He reigns over all the world and the entire universe.
In the second reading (there are two options), we are told that Christ is the ruler of all things. Everything was “beneath His feet.” He rules over every principality, authority and power. Christ sits at the Father’s right hand interceding for us. The second option reminds us that Christ went to the true sanctuary, not one made by men. Our churches are beautiful and all, but they do not compare to heaven. We are told that Christ will intercede for us and is the sacrifice offered for all. This sacrifice is not one that repeats itself like those of the Jewish faith. Christ died once for all. His one sacrifice is suffice. Christ sits at the right hand of the Father. He judges us immediately after death. We die only once, there is no such thing as reincarnation. Therefore, only have one chance to make things right, so to speak. We must take advantage of the Catholic Church and all the graces God offers via her. Our bodies and souls will be washed in the pure waters of baptism. They will be nourished by the Holy Eucharist and strengthened by the other Sacraments.
Finally in the Gospel, Jesus reminds the disciples of all that is to happen regarding Himself. They are to be witnesses of all these things. We too are witnesses of Christ 2,000 plus years later. While we were not there when Jesus walked the Earth, we are witnesses of how He works in our lives. We are witnesses that all He said was not nonsense, but truth. As we prepare for Pentecost, we must remind ourselves of this. We are witnesses of Christ. Those of us who received Confirmation are taught this during preparation. We must not keep the faith to ourselves but must share it with all. This does not mean that we have to go on street corners and shout with a microphone to repeat. I have found that the best way to witness to Christ the the lives of others is by living a truly genuine Christian life. When we smile, love others, forgive, help others; people take note of this. They will realize that it is Christ who inspires us to do these things and will seek Him as well. Let us proclaim Christ’s love to all and spread His Good News.