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Contemplating today's Gospel

Today's Gospel + homily (in 300 words)

The Ascension of the Lord (A)
1st Reading (Acts 1:1-11): In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.

While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for «the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit». When they had gathered together they asked him, «Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?». He answered them, «It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth».

When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, «Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven».
Responsorial Psalm: 46
R/. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
All you peoples, clap your hands, shout to God with cries of gladness, For the Lord, the Most High, the awesome, is the great king over all the earth.

God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy; the Lord, amid trumpet blasts. Sing praise to God, sing praise; sing praise to our king, sing praise.

For king of all the earth is God; sing hymns of praise. God reigns over the nations, God sits upon his holy throne.
2nd Reading (Eph 1:17-23): Brothers and sisters: May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.
Versicle before the Gospel (Mt 28:19.20): Alleluia. Go and teach all nations, says the Lord; I am with you always, until the end of the world. Alleluia.
Gospel text (Mt 28:16-20): The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me”

Dr. Josef ARQUER (Berlin, Germany)

Today we contemplate hands that bless - the Lord's final earthly gesture (cf. Luke 24:51). Or footprints marked on a mount - the last visible sign of God's passage through our land. At times, that mount is depicted as a rock, and the imprint of His steps is not engraved on the earth but on the rock. It's as if alluding to that stone which He foretold and which will soon be sealed by the wind and fire of Pentecost. Iconography has been using these suggestive symbols since ancient times. And also the mysterious cloud - shadow and light at the same time - that accompanies so many theophanies already in the Old Testament. The face of the Lord would dazzle us.

Saint Leo the Great helps us to delve deeper into the event: "What was visible in our Savior has now passed on to his mysteries." What mysteries? Those which He entrusted to His Church. The gesture of blessing unfolds in the liturgy, and the footprints on the earth mark the path of the sacraments —a path that leads to the fullness of the definitive encounter with God.

During those forty days in which the Lord does not “appear”, but rather, as the exegetes tell us, “let’s Himself be seen”, the Apostles will have had time to get used to their Master's other way of being. Now, in this last encounter, amazement is renewed. The Apostles discover that, from this moment on, they will not only proclaim the Word, but will also inspire life and health, with the visible gesture and the audible word: in baptism and in the other sacraments.

“All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt 28:18). All authority... Go to all nations... And teach them to obey everything... And He will be with them - with His Church, with us - always (cf. Mt 28:19-20). That "everything" resounds through space and time, affirming us in hope.

Thoughts on Today's Gospel

  • “The blessed Apostles made such progress after the Lord’s Ascension that everything which had previously filled them with fear was turned into joy. For they had lifted the whole contemplation of their mind to the Godhead of Him that sat at the Father’s right hand.” (Saint Leo the Great)

  • “Jesus’ Ascension into heaven constitutes the end of the mission that the Son received from the Father and the beginning of the continuation of this mission on the part of the Church. This mission will last until the end of history and every day will have the assistance of the Risen Lord.” (Francis)

  • “Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal. Each of them makes present and fruitful in the Church the mystery of Christ, who promised to remain with his own ‘always, to the close of the age’ (Mt 28:20).” (Catechism Of the Catholic Church, Nº 80)