Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
“The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.”
O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action.
Prayer of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity
Grant, almighty God,
that we may celebrate with heartfelt devotion these days of joy,
which we keep in honor of the risen Lord,
and that what we relive in remembrance
we may always hold to in what we do.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity
of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Acts 15:1-2, 22-29
Some who had come down from Judea were instructing the brothers,
“Unless you are circumcised according to the Mosaic practice,
you cannot be saved.”
Because there arose no little dissension and debate
by Paul and Barnabas with them,
it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some of the others
should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders
about this question.
The apostles and elders, in agreement with the whole church,
decided to choose representatives
and to send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas.
The ones chosen were Judas, who was called Barsabbas,
and Silas, leaders among the brothers.
This is the letter delivered by them:
“The apostles and the elders, your brothers,
to the brothers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia
of Gentile origin: greetings.
Since we have heard that some of our number
who went out without any mandate from us
have upset you with their teachings
and disturbed your peace of mind,
we have with one accord decided to choose representatives
and to send them to you along with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
who have dedicated their lives to the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
So we are sending Judas and Silas
who will also convey this same message by word of mouth:
‘It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us
not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities,
namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols,
from blood, from meats of strangled animals,
and from unlawful marriage.
If you keep free of these,
you will be doing what is right. Farewell.’”
On reading of this, the First Council of the Church, which, guided by the Holy Spirit, gave a decision which was momentous for the spread of the Church in the Gentile world, our first thought must be for the wisdom and goodness of God who provided so effectively for our salvation. The Apostles and elders were men born under the Mosaic Law and soaked in its centuries’ old traditions. Were it not for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, could they ever have even thought of abandoning the sacred rite of circumcision, and so many of the other customs and practices which had become second nature to them? The question had arisen because Jewish converts to the Christian faith–and there is no reason to doubt their piety and sincerity–had thought nobody could belong to the people of God unless this sacred rite, indeed the full Mosaic Law, was kept in its entirety.
But the Council, the human authority Christ had set up to rule and teach his Church, directed by the Holy Spirit, reached an unanimous decision–the correct one–which broke with the nonessentials of their ancient religious traditions.
When Christ set up his Church to continue his work of bringing mankind to heaven, he founded it on the Apostles, with Peter as their head. They were very ordinary mortal men, with all their human weaknesses. But he promised them the divine assistance of the Holy Spirit and his own presence in the sacraments, especially in the holy Eucharist, until the end of time. He has kept his promise. Down through two thousand years, notwithstanding all the human weaknesses and worldly inclinations of so many of his followers, his Church has remained true to his teaching. She has had to face opposition from enemies outside the fold who hoped to destroy her and often from friends within who meant well but acted unreasonably while desiring to improve her.
Human nature has not changed in those two thousand years. There are still enemies on the outside today, who would not only get rid of the Church but would get rid of God himself if they could. There are friends within her who in their anxiety to help, feel and act as if the rustiest of ancient practices were still in their pristine brightness, while on the other hand there are zealous modernizes so anxious to keep the Church up to date that they are almost a century ahead of their time.
But Christ and the Holy Spirit are still looking after the Church. “The gates of hell that is, all the powers of her enemies, will not prevail against her.” This is Christ’s promise and we can rely on that guarantee. The essentials of Christ’s teaching are long established in the Church, our duty and privilege (for they are our road-map to heaven) is to follow them faithfully. If and when today’s abundant crop of theological experts prove that some minor diversions would be helpful to that old roadmap, the Holy Spirit, we can rest assured, will move and assist the divinely appointed authority in the Church to accept and sanction these proven diversions. Until then, we can feel sure we are on the right road whilst following the map already in use.
But we can and must all help the Church by our prayers. The assistance of the Holy Spirit, like all the other graces and gifts of God, must be sought for in the fervent prayers of all the faithful. The Church is a body made up of many members, if each member does its part not only to retain its own spiritual health but to help the weaker members to improve, the whole body will be healthy–it will increase in loyalty to God and Christ, it will grow daily in holiness and continue to produce saints for heaven, the purpose for which it was instituted.
Ps 67:2-3, 5, 6, 8
O God, let all the nations praise you!
May God have pity on us and bless us;
may he let his face shine upon us.
So may your way be known upon earth;
among all nations, your salvation.
O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the nations be glad and exult
because you rule the peoples in equity;
the nations on the earth you guide.
O God, let all the nations praise you!
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you!
May God bless us,
and may all the ends of the earth fear him!
O God, let all the nations praise you!
Rev 21:10-14, 22-23
The angel took me in spirit to a great, high mountain
and showed me the holy city Jerusalem
coming down out of heaven from God.
It gleamed with the splendor of God.
Its radiance was like that of a precious stone,
like jasper, clear as crystal.
It had a massive, high wall,
with twelve gates where twelve angels were stationed
and on which names were inscribed,
the names of the twelve tribes of the Israelites.
There were three gates facing east,
three north, three south, and three west.
The wall of the city had twelve courses of stones as its foundation,
on which were inscribed the twelve names
of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
I saw no temple in the city
for its temple is the Lord God almighty and the Lamb.
The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it,
for the glory of God gave it light,
and its lamp was the Lamb.
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 117 The spiritual sense. Thanks to the unity of God’s plan, not only the text of Scripture but also the realities and events about which it speaks can be signs.
1. The allegorical sense. We can acquire a more profound understanding of events by recognizing their significance in Christ; thus the crossing of the Red Sea is a sign or type of Christ’s victory and also of Christian Baptism.1
2. The moral sense. The events reported in Scripture ought to lead us to act justly. As St. Paul says, they were written “for our instruction”.2
3. The anagogical sense (Greek: anagoge, “leading”). We can view realities and events in terms of their eternal significance, leading us toward our true homeland: thus the Church on earth is a sign of the heavenly Jerusalem.3
CCC 586 Far from having been hostile to the Temple, where he gave the essential part of his teaching, Jesus was willing to pay the Temple-tax, associating with him Peter, whom he had just made the foundation of his future Church.4 He even identified himself with the Temple by presenting himself as God’s definitive dwelling-place among men.5 Therefore his being put to bodily death6 presaged the destruction of the Temple, which would manifest the dawning of a new age in the history of salvation: “The hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.”7
CCC 757 “The Church, further, which is called ‘that Jerusalem which is above’ and ‘our mother’, is described as the spotless spouse of the spotless lamb. It is she whom Christ ‘loved and for whom he delivered himself up that he might sanctify her.’ It is she whom he unites to himself by an unbreakable alliance, and whom he constantly ‘nourishes and cherishes.’”8
CCC 765 The Lord Jesus endowed his community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved. Before all else there is the choice of the Twelve with Peter as their head.9 Representing the twelve tribes of Israel, they are the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem.10 The Twelve and the other disciples share in Christ’s mission and his power, but also in his lot.11 By all his actions, Christ prepares and builds his Church.
CCC 857 The Church is apostolic because she is founded on the apostles, in three ways:
– she was and remains built on “the foundation of the Apostles,”12 the witnesses chosen and sent on mission by Christ himself;13
– with the help of the Spirit dwelling in her, the Church keeps and hands on the teaching,14 the “good deposit,” the salutary words she has heard from the apostles;15
– she continues to be taught, sanctified, and guided by the apostles until Christ’s return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of bishops, “assisted by priests, in union with the successor of Peter, the Church’s supreme pastor”:16
You are the eternal Shepherd
who never leaves his flock untended.
Through the apostles
you watch over us and protect us always.
You made them shepherds of the flock
to share in the work of your Son. ..17
CCC 865 The Church is ultimately one, holy, catholic, and apostolic in her deepest and ultimate identity, because it is in her that “the Kingdom of heaven,” the “Reign of God,”18 already exists and will be fulfilled at the end of time. The kingdom has come in the person of Christ and grows mysteriously in the hearts of those incorporated into him, until its full eschatological manifestation. Then all those he has redeemed and made “holy and blameless before him in love,”19 will be gathered together as the one People of God, the “Bride of the Lamb,”20 “the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God.”21 For “the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”22
CCC 1138 “Recapitulated in Christ,” these are the ones who take part in the service of the praise of God and the fulfillment of his plan: the heavenly powers, all creation (the four living beings), the servants of the Old and New Covenants (the twenty-four elders), the new People of God (the one hundred and forty-four thousand),23 especially the martyrs “slain for the word of God,” and the all-holy Mother of God (the Woman), the Bride of the Lamb,24 and finally “a great multitude which no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes, and peoples and tongues.”25
1 Cf. I Cor 10:2.
2 I Cor 10:11; cf. Heb 3:1 -4:11.
3 Cf. Rev 21:1 – 22:5.
4 Cf. Mt 8:4; 16:18; 17:24-27; Lk 17:14; Jn 4:22; 18:20.
5 Cf. Jn 2:21; Mt 12:6.
6 Cf. Jn 2:18-22.
7 Jn 4:21; cf. 4:23-24; Mt 27:5; Heb 9:11; Rev 21:22.
8 LG 6; Cf. Gal 4:26; Rev 12:17; 19:7; 21:2,9; 22:17; Eph 5:25-26,29.
9 Cf. Mk 3:14-15.
10 Cf. Mt 19:28; Lk 22:30; Rev 21:12-14.
11 Cf. Mk 6:7; Lk 10:1-2; Mt 10:25; Jn 15:20.
12 Eph 2:20; Rev 21:14.
13 Cf. Mt 28:16-20; Acts 1:8; 1 Cor 9:1; 15:7-8; Gal 1:1; etc.
14 Cf. Acts 2:42.
15 Cf. 2 Tim 1:13-14.
16 AG 5.
17 Roman Missal, Preface of the Apostles I.
18 Rev 19:6.
19 Eph 1:4.
20 Rev 21:9.
21 Rev 21:10-11.
22 Rev 21:14.
23 Cf. Rev 4-5; 7:1-8; 14:1; Isa 6:2-3.
24 Rev 6:9-11; Rev 21:9; cf. 12.
25 Rev 7:9.
By repeating some reference to heaven Sunday after Sunday during the six Sundays that follow Easter, the Church wants us to concentrate, if only for a few moments once a week, on the future that awaits us. Easter, the Resurrection of Christ, meant the opening of heaven for man. It meant that when we end our few years here we are assured of a place of eternal happiness in the presence of the glorified Christ and the Blessed Trinity. This is so attractive a guarantee that one wonders sometimes why we do not abandon all earthly joys and cares, to concentrate completely and entirely on this our future happiness.
A small percentage of the world’s population may do just this. But God does not demand or expect it of the rest of us. We have tasks to fulfill while on this earth and it is by doing these tasks honestly and faithfully that we shall earn the eternal reward. The man who every morning offers his day with its cares and consolations, to God, and who does his work as well as possible to please God, is moving daily towards heaven.
We could compare ourselves on our earthly journey towards heaven to a young man of eighteen who goes to college with the firm determination to qualify at the end of six or seven years as a doctor. Although he studies and attends his lectures regularly, there may be weeks or even months, holiday time for instance, when the thought of his determination to be a doctor will hardly cross his mind. But he is moving towards it steadily and surely if he concentrates on the daily task during the prescribed periods. He can have lots of recreation and necessary periods of rest and relaxation, but he will end up a doctor and a good one if he does the work expected of him by his professors.
So it is with our journey to heaven–we are getting a step nearer each day if that day is spent in honest work, honest recreation and well-deserved rest. However it is good for all of us, and necessary for some, to be reminded every so often of where we are going or should be going. That medical student may miss a day’s or even a week’s study through his own fault. He can make up for it by doubling his efforts later. We too can rest by the side of the road on our journey to heaven. We may sit there for days, for weeks, even for months. But through the mercy and kindness of God we too can make up for lost time by using the means that God gave us, the sacraments of his forgiveness and love. God actually wants to share his heaven with all of us. His hand is forever stretched out to lift up the lazy and the careless ones who have fallen by the way. All we have to do is to grasp that hand of divine friendship and we are on our way once more.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Whoever loves me will keep my word,
and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words;
yet the word you hear is not mine
but that of the Father who sent me.
“I have told you this while I am with you.
The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
Not as the world gives do I give it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.
You heard me tell you,
‘I am going away and I will come back to you.’
If you loved me,
you would rejoice that I am going to the Father;
for the Father is greater than I.
And now I have told you this before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe.”
CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)
CCC 244 The eternal origin of the Holy Spirit is revealed in his mission in time. The Spirit is sent to the apostles and to the Church both by the Father in the name of the Son, and by the Son in person, once he had returned to the Father.1 The sending of the person of the Spirit after Jesus’ glorification2 reveals in its fullness the mystery of the Holy Trinity.
CCC 260 The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God’s creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity.3 But even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity: “If a man loves me”, says the Lord, “he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him”:4
O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action.5
CCC 1099 The Spirit and the Church cooperate to manifest Christ and his work of salvation in the liturgy. Primarily in the Eucharist, and by analogy in the other sacraments, the liturgy is the memorial of the mystery of salvation. The Holy Spirit is the Church’s living memory.6
CCC 2615 Even more, what the Father gives us when our prayer is united with that of Jesus is “another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth.”7 This new dimension of prayer and of its circumstances is displayed throughout the farewell discourse.8 In the Holy Spirit, Christian prayer is a communion of love with the Father, not only through Christ but also in him: “Hitherto you have asked nothing in my name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.”9
CCC 2623 On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit of the Promise was poured out on the disciples, gathered “together in one place.”10 While awaiting the Spirit, “all these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer.”11 The Spirit who teaches the Church and recalls for her everything that Jesus said12 was also to form her in the life of prayer.
1 Cf. Jn 14:26; 15:26; 16:14.
2 Cf. Jn 7:39.
3 Cf. Jn 17:21-23.
4 Jn 14:23.
5 Prayer of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity.
6 Cf. Jn 14:26.
7 Jn 14:16-17.
8 Cf. Jn 14:23-26; 15:7, 16; 16:13-15; 16:23-27.
9 Jn 16:24.
10 Acts 2:1.
11 Acts 1:14.
12 Cf. Jn 14:26.
In the first reading at today’s Mass, we were given the story of the first General Council ever held by the Church authorities. There we saw that a vital decision was reached through the guidance and assistance of the Holy Spirit. “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and ours” (Acts 15: 28) was how the authorities announced the conclusion they had reached. In this Gospel which we have just read, Christ promised his Apostles, the night before his death, that when he returned to the Father, the Holy Spirit would be sent to them. He would teach them all things and recall to their minds all that Christ had taught them. In other words, the Church, through the Apostles, was promised the direct assistance of the Holy Spirit in preserving and interpreting what we call “the deposit of faith” or the sum total of the divine revelation given to us for our sanctification.
That promise was fulfilled in a very solemn way within twenty years of our Lord’s resurrection at the Council of Jerusalem. It has been fulfilled again and again down through the history of the Church. And this has been the case not only on the solemn occasions of General Councils, or when definitions concerning faith and morals were given ex cathedra by the Pope, but in many circumstances of less solemnity.
The Holy Spirit “breathes where he wills.” He assists the local authorities in the Church. He inspires individual Christians if they call on him in their need. He inspires young people of both sexes to offer their lives to the service of the Church and their neighbor. He has inspired founders of orders and congregations to form institutes which would help the spread of the faith. He is at work today among us and among the separated brothers of the Church, helping and inspiring them towards that unity for which Christ prayed.
There are moments of crisis in all our lives, moments when a vital decision has to be made. If that decision is wrongly made it may not only seriously interfere with our earthly welfare, but more important still jeopardize our eternal salvation. We should call on the Holy Spirit to help us daily, but we should call for his assistance especially when we have a serious decision to make.
His role in the Church and in the lives of all Christians is to preserve and protect the revelation that God has given us. There are times in the lives of many of us when we are tempted to doubt about what we are called on to believe, or to hesitate with regard to what we are called on to do. It is on such occasions that the help of the Holy Spirit is especially necessary. He will not fail us if we turn to him earnestly and sincerely.
Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Franciscan Press.
The Holy Spirit is Love
The gift of God is the Holy Spirit. The gift of God is love – God shares himself as love in the Holy Spirit… The presence of the Holy Spirit makes itself known in the manner of love. Love is the criterion of the Holy Spirit as against unholy spirits; indeed, it is the presence of the Holy Spirit himself and, in that sense, the presence of God. The essential and central concept summing up what the Holy Spirit is and what he effects is, in the end, not “knowledge” but love… The basic criterion of love, its “proper work,” so to speak – and, thereby, the “proper work” of the Holy Spirit – is this, that it achieves abiding. Love shows itself by being enduring. It can by no means be recognized at a given moment and in the moment alone; but in abiding, it does away with uncertainty and carries eternity within it. And thus in my view the relationship between love and truth is also thereby given: love, in the full sense, can be present only where something is enduring, where something abides. Because it has to do with abiding, it can occur, not just anywhere, but only there where eternity is.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI
Prayer to the Holy Spirit
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful.
And kindle in them the fire of your love.
Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created.
And you will renew the face of the earth.
by the light of the Holy Spirit
you have taught the hearts of your faithful.
In the same Spirit
help us to relish what is right
and always rejoice in your consolation.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Fourth Sunday of Easter – C
Third Sunday of Easter – C
Second Sunday of Easter – C Divine Mercy Sunday
Palm Sunday of the Lord’s Passion – C
Fifth Sunday of Lent – C
Fourth Sunday of Lent – C
Third Sunday of Lent – C
Second Sunday of Lent – C