7th Sunday of Easter
Fr. Paul Patrick, O.M.I.
Posted: May 16, 2021
“God has gone up with a shout, the Lord with the sound of a trumpet. Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises” (cf Psalm 47)
This Sunday in the Catholic church we celebrate the feast of the Ascension. The celebration of this feast is quite old and dates back to the 4th century. The name “Ascension” comes from the Latin ascensio (lit. ascent/rising up) which signifies that Christ was raised by his own power – underlining his divinity. Some elderly people or those from parts of Southern or Eastern Europe may recall celebrating Ascension on a Thursday, whereas today we celebrate it on a Sunday. This change was made in order to make it easier for people to celebrate this feast without conflicts from work and school and so Dioceses in Canada and many other countries moved the celebration of this feast to Sunday.
- In the Gospel
When Jesus physically ascends into Heaven following His Resurrection, the 11 apostles are seemingly left on their own (cf Mk 16:19) Instead of being dismayed by this event, the faithful are encouraged by Jesus’ continued presence among them – in the Eucharist, through prayer and in one another, and begin to act in accordance with Jesus’ wishes “Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation” (Mk 16:15) They go out and begin preaching the good news or “Gospel” of salvation quite literally in all directions: “And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.” (Mk. 16:20)
- Mission oriented
If we look at the general attitude of the early Christian community following the Ascension and slightly later following Pentecost, they embodied a mission-oriented Church, one which actively seeks to go out and meet people in order to bring them the Gospel message. In his beautiful encyclical entitled “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel) Pope Francis had much to say on how the Church today at every level must also embody this outward oriented mission. Perhaps this quote from Evangelii Gaudium sums it up best: “I dream of a “missionary option” – that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her [own] self-preservation”
These words of the Pope combined with the command of Jesus immediately prior to his Ascension (cf Mk. 16:15) provide an effective road map for our own life of faith at whatever local level we find ourselves. In terms of practicality, sometimes we fail to even start reaching out to others, or in our families or in our parishes, perhaps due to a type of ‘perfectionism” which holds us back due to fear. Such fear can be crippling, because it does not allow God’s grace and inspiration to work within us, and we fail to reach out to others, preferring to leave it ‘to the professionals’.
The reality is that, many people who are relatively unevangelized are far more receptive to an invitation to explore a life of faith when invited by one of their peers since they appear far more approachable and relatable. As such, in certain cases such as reaching out to the unchurched, perhaps the most effective evangelizers are not necessarily priests and religious but rather laypeople because they are seen as peers and in addition, due to their relatability. An obvious example of this would be – a young person reaching out to a fellow teen. A married couple reaching out to a similar married couple. A retired person reaching out to a fellow retiree.
- – Conclusion
As we meditate on today’s feast of the Ascension and on the Gospel, let’s pause for a few moments and ask where the Lord is asking me to use my talents and abilities – such as youthfulness or experience or profession or any other factor – to contribute to an outward seeking Church.