Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Ascension reminds us that Jesus IS the Gospel

In my diocese, as in several other local churches, this Sunday is Ascension Day. No, this is not a rant about how this throws our liturgical arithmetic off, even though it does. I admit that this "transfer" remains incomprehensible to me, at the end of the day it is what it is.

I usually take my point-of-departure from the reading from Acts, but today I want to focus on our reading from St. Luke's Gospel. Of course most believe it is the case that Luke and Acts were composed by the same author. I am among those who believe that is true. Nonetheless, Luke's Gospel has an account of Jesus' Ascension in addition to the one we find in the first chapter of Acts.

The Ascension, by Benjamin West, 1801

The part of the Gospel reading I want to focus on are the words of Jesus:
Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high (Luke 24:46b-49)
In these words are contained both the content of evangelization and the call to evangelize. This nicely complements something from earlier this week, namely that being forgiven our sins, to borrow a few words from David Platt, "is God's greatest gift because it meets our greatest need."

Jumping over to St. John's Gospel, which, in turn, brings up the whole issue of Divine Mercy Sunday, which I like because it upsets so many academic Catholics, we see that the first gift Jesus gave to the Church after His Resurrection was the Sacrament of Penance (see John 20:19-23). Despite all of this, I can still understand the disciples pleading, even with their eyes and faces, "Jesus, please don't go!"

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