Sunday of the Ascension
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Sunday of the Ascension

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Sunday of the Ascension
Sunday, May 21

Sunday of Ascension

First Reading

Acts 1,1-11

In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. While at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. 'It is', he had said, 'what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but, not many days from now, you are going to be baptised with the Holy Spirit.' Now having met together, they asked him, 'Lord, has the time come for you to restore the kingdom to Israel?' He replied, 'It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will come on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to earth's remotest end.' As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky as he went, when suddenly two men in white were standing beside them, and they said, 'Why are you Galileans standing here looking into the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will come back in the same way as you have seen him go to heaven.'


Psalm 46


Shout to God with the voice of joy.

All peoples, clap your hands,
cry to God with shouts of joy!

For the Lord, the Most High, we must fear,
great king over all the earth.

He subdues peoples under us
and nations under our feet.

Our inheritance, our glory, is from him,
given to Jacob out of love.

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 is king over the nations;
God reigns on his holy throne.

The princes of the peoples are assembled
with the people of Abraham's God.

The rulers of the earth belong to God,
to God who reigns over all.

Second Reading

Ephesians 1,17-23

May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, how rich is the glory of the heritage he offers among his holy people, and how extraordinarily great is the power that he has exercised for us believers; this accords with the strength of his power at work in Christ, the power which he exercised in raising him from the dead and enthroning him at his right hand, in heaven, far above every principality, ruling force, power or sovereignty, or any other name that can be named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet, and made him, as he is above all things, the head of the Church; which is his Body, the fullness of him who is filled, all in all.

Reading of the Gospel

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 28,16-20

Meanwhile the eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.'


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Yesterday I was buried with Christ,
today I rise with you who are risen.
With you I was crucified;
remember me, Lord, in your kingdom.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia


Today we contemplate the mystery of Jesus who "ascends" to heaven. The evangelist Luke narrates it as the climax of Jesus' itinerary. He indicates it at the beginning of Jesus' journey to Jerusalem when he writes: "When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem" (9:51). The Ascension concludes the Gospel narration. We could say that with the Ascension, Easter reaches its fulfilment. From that moment on, the disciples begin their journey through the world. They are led by Jesus outside Jerusalem, towards Bethany. While they are with him, maybe aware of the solemnity of the moment, they ask, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" It was an important question; as if they asked: "Can we finally not worry about waiting anymore? Are the forces of evil defeated once for all? Is the kingdom of the Messiah going to be finally established?" But Jesus does not answer this question of his disciples. He clarifies, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority." Like the disciples of that time, we often understand very little about life, and we often reduce it to what we understand personally or what we feel for ourselves. Jesus instead seems to be suggesting that life is much greater and more complex, and it certainly is not for us to know its times and periods! Still, the Lord does not leave the disciples in uncertainty of a complex, sometimes hostile world. He promises them true strength, the power of the Holy Spirit: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you."
Jesus' ascension to heaven, therefore, does not mean that Jesus simply distanced himself from his disciples rather he reached the Father and is seated at His side in glory. To "ascend into heaven" means entering a definitive relationship with God. The "heaven" of which Scripture speaks wants to say: just as the heavens cover and envelop us, so the Lord, by ascending into heaven, covers and envelops us all. The disciples grasp this and consequently are full of joy: "And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy." The apostles had understood that Jesus would be with them forever, as he said to them, according to Jesus' last words reported by Matthew: "And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (28:20).
That joy of the disciples is now our joy.
Heaven is not the dimension of our "I" or convictions Jesus' himself. "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven," the men in white robes warn the disciples. It is the invitation to keep the eyes of our hearts fixed on Jesus, on his body at the same time wounded and glorious. He is not a ghost; he does not appear with a new and perfect body but with that same body scarred by history, by the violence and wounds inflicted on him. The concreteness of the risen Jesus who is still wounded establishes a close link between life on earth and that in heaven, as the Apostle Paul seems to suggest in the Letter to the Colossians: "For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross" (1 Col 1:19-20). The Ascension is the future that God begins with his Son, the First Born. Being with Jesus means ascending where he has already prepared a place also for us.

Prayer is the heart of the life of the Community of Sant'Egidio and is its absolute priority. At the end of the day, every the Community of Sant'Egidio, large or small, gathers around the Lord to listen to his Word. The Word of God and the prayer are, in fact, the very basis of the whole life of the Community. The disciples cannot do other than remain at the feet of Jesus, as did Mary of Bethany, to receive his love and learn his ways (Phil. 2:5).
So every evening, when the Community returns to the feet of the Lord, it repeats the words of the anonymous disciple: " Lord, teach us how to pray". Jesus, Master of prayer, continues to answer: "When you pray, say: Abba, Father". It is not a simple exhortation, it is much more. With these words Jesus lets the disciples participate in his own relationship with the Father. Therefore in prayer, the fact of being children of the Father who is in heaven, comes before the words we may say. So praying is above all a way of being! That is to say we are children who turn with faith to the Father, certain that they will be heard.
Jesus teaches us to call God "Our Father". And not simply "Father" or "My Father". Disciples, even when they pray on their own, are never isolated nor they are orphans; they are always members of the Lord's family.
In praying together, beside the mystery of being children of God, there is also the mystery of brotherhood, as the Father of the Church said: "You cannot have God as father without having the church as mother". When praying together, the Holy Spirit assembles the disciples in the upper room together with Mary, the Lord's mother, so that they may direct their gaze towards the Lord's face and learn from Him the secret of his Heart.
 The Communities of Sant'Egidio all over the world gather in the various places of prayer and lay before the Lord the hopes and the sufferings of the tired, exhausted crowds of which the Gospel speaks ( Mat. 9: 3-7 ), In these ancient crowds we can see the huge masses of the modern cities, the millions of refugees who continue to flee their countries, the poor, relegated to the very fringe of life and all those who are waiting for someone to take care of them. Praying together includes the cry, the invocation, the aspiration, the desire for peace, the healing and salvation of the men and women of this world. Prayer is never in vain; it rises ceaselessly to the Lord so that anguish is turned into hope, tears into joy, despair into happiness, and solitude into communion. May the Kingdom of God come soon among people!