7th Sunday of Easter and the Feast of the Ascension: Join Bishop Strickland for Sunday's Live Mass - 5.24.20
FREE Catholic Classes
Bishop Strickland during last Sunday's live Mass.
Dear Catholic Online Community and Catholic Online School students...
I AM HAPPY TO OFFER EACH OF YOU ANOTHER INVITATION TO JOIN WITH BISHOP JOSEPH STRICKLAND OF THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF TYLER, TEXAS, AS HE OFFERS THE HOLY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS
This Sunday is the Seventh Sunday of the Easter Season. However, in some places, such as the Diocese of Tyler, Texas, where I serve as a Deacon, it will be the Feast of the Ascension. Historically, that feast was celebrated on Thursday because in the Acts of the Apostles we read that Jesus appeared to his followers for forty days after His Resurrection. (Acts 1:3) But the Feast can be moved to Sunday by the conferences of Bishops. And, in many places it has been.
I will not be assisting the Bishop as Deacon due to other ministry assignments, but one of my brother Deacons will. I consider Bishop Strickland to be one of the best homilists in the Church. I KNOW you will be spiritually enriched by his sermon. I also love to assist him at the Altar, his manner of offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass often moves me to tears.
Whether celebrated on Thursday or Sunday, the Feast of the Ascension is meant to be a cause for celebration. It can be - IF we allow the Holy Spirit to show us what it really means. Is this Feast a commemoration of an event which occurred 2000 years ago? Sort of an intermission in the ministry of Jesus until He returns or the last act of the play? Or, could it help unlock the meaning of our lives right now? Does it point to the plan of God for the entire created order? Is it a portal to eternity?
The Feast of the Ascension of the Lord Jesus helps to explain the Christian vocation and unveils the horizon which opens before us as we continue to live our lives now in this Way called Christianity. (cf Acts 9:2, 11:26) It points to the ongoing plan of redemption for each of us. It gives us a glimpse of the loving plan of God for the whole of creation.
This Feast also points us toward a deeper understanding of the Feast of Pentecost which we will celebrate next Sunday. The very Breath of God, His Holy Spirit, has been breathed into the Body of Christ, the Church - and into each one of us as members of that Body. That Spirit makes it possible for us to live differently - beginning right now. It is at work within us, transforming us more and more into His Image and Likeness, as we cooperate with the gift of grace.
That Spirit empowers and equips us to participate in the ongoing redemptive mission of Jesus Christ, as it continues through His Body, the Church.
We have ascended with Jesus Christ - and are called to begin to live - and manifest - on this earth - the very realities of heaven and the kingdom to come. This new Way is meant to begin in the here and now, to be completed in the fullness of time.
The redemptive plan of God in Jesus Christ will not be complete until the same Jesus who ascended returns and hands the re-created cosmos back to the Father. That is what the Apostle Paul calls "the plan", or the "mystery" now revealed in Jesus Christ. (See, e.g., Col. 1)
The event we remember in this Feast reveals the mission of the Church - and our call to participate in it - right now. It also offers the portal to eternity. Jesus Christ has not left us. He is continuing His loving, redemptive plan through His Body, the Church, of which we are members. The Head and the Body cannot be separated. He lives His life through us!
Since our reach is international, some of our friends will hear the readings for the seventh Sunday of Eastertide, or the Easter Season. So, I offer a few thoughts on them as well.
In the first reading (Acts 1:12-14), the disciples are returning to Jerusalem, after the Ascension of the Lord Jesus. He told them that they would receive power when the holy Spirit came upon them. So, they returned and went to the upper room, with Mary, the Mother of the Lord, and his relatives.
Next Sunday, we will celebrate that great outpouring of the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost. Notice what they did "With one heart all these joined constantly in prayer..." On Pentecost the early followers of Jesus gathered as their Lord had instructed them, expecting the fulfillment of the promise he had made to send the Holy Spirit. We refer to Pentecost as the birthday of the missionary church for a good reason. Their encounter with the Holy Spirit in the Upper Room changed them.
They were filled with the same Holy Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead. The Apostle Paul would later explain the experience. Even though he was not at that first Pentecost, he certainly experienced the same encounter, and came to know of its powerful, transformative effects! (Romans 8:11)
The Holy Spirit capacitated the early followers of Jesus to go from being a frightened fraternity to a band of brothers and sisters of whom it was said "they turned the world upside down" (Acts 17:6) They were empowered to carry forward in time the ongoing mission of Jesus Christ until he returns.
In our second reading (1 Peter 4: 13-16), the Apostle Peter instructs the early churches on Suffering as a Christian. The Christian tradition instructs us that even undeserved and unmerited suffering, when joined in love to the sufferings of Jesus Christ, can produce extraordinary fruit within us - and then through us, as we change. This is a part of the teaching on the mystery of suffering in the Christian life.
Saint Jose Maria Escriva once wrote "The great Christian revolution has been to convert pain into fruitful suffering and to turn a bad thing into something good. We have deprived the devil of this weapon; and with it we can conquer eternity." WOW. What a different way of viewing suffering. How do we deal with suffering in our own lives? Do we join it the suffering of the Lord?
In the Gospel appointed for the Seventh Sunday of Easter (St. John 17:1-11) Jesus is praying for the Church. The disciples who are with Him, and all those to come. The intimate communion He has with the Father is evident in this beautiful prayer. He is praying for you and for me. He knows we will be in "the world" after he ascends. But He is asking the Father to keep us "in His name". So identified with Him, that in Jesus Christ, in His mystical Body, the Church, we are joined to His Father, and protected from the evil one.
So, please join with Bishop Strickland this Sunday and be inspired in your faith in the Risen and Ascended Lord and better prepared for the celebration of Pentecost next Sunday.
Deacon Keith Fournier
Dean of Catholic Online School
Chaplain of Your Catholic Voice Foundation
Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2020 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.
Catholic Online is a Project of Your Catholic Voice Foundation, a Not-for-Profit Corporation. Your Catholic Voice Foundation has been granted a recognition of tax exemption under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Federal Tax Identification Number: 81-0596847. Your gift is tax-deductible as allowed by law.