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The Ascension of the Lord

Posted on May 9, 2024, by Mary Swain SL

Acts 1:1-11, Eph. 1:17-23, Mark 16:15-20

Editor’s note: The Solemnity of the Ascension will be observed Sunday, May 12, in the Louisville Archdiocese. The feast was transferred to that date from Thursday, May 9, which in 2024 will be celebrated as an Easter weekday and is not a holy day of obligation. The feast of the Ascension commemorates when Jesus ascended to Heaven. Loretto chose to retain the celebration of the Ascension on May 9, the 40th day of Easter, which always falls on a Thursday. Jesus was taken up into a cloud out of sight of his disciples 40 days after his Resurrection. (Acts 1:4-9)

We have been reading from the Acts of the Apostles each day since Easter. Today we read from its very beginning: Chapter 1, verse 1. Luke is such a good storyteller. He says in the very beginning of the book that he deals with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up. Quite an accomplishment — or quite a claim.  

The Apostles have had a terrible experience of Jesus being murdered. They have been companions with him these past three years. They might have wondered what would happen to them because of their association with Jesus. Would they be killed, too? And they never did seem particularly alert to what to do next. Jesus was the leader. Then he is gone.

We have been listening to the Easter stories also these past five-and-a-half weeks. The Apostles have had experiences of Jesus as though he is with them. They are overjoyed yet confused. Maybe they should go back to fishing — or tax-collecting.

But, no. Luke explains how the Apostles somehow experience Jesus saying to them that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them.Then they will be Jesus’ witnesses, not only in Jerusalem but everywhere else. In today’s Gospel Mark says they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them.

The Eleven certainly appear undaunted. They are to pick up where Jesus left off. The focus has shifted — from Jesus doing the teaching to their doing the teaching.

What about this feast of the Ascension and us? We have not had the experiences the disciples had with Jesus – the physical closeness, the speaking together, the intimacy. Nor have we experienced his being ripped away in violent death. We have heard the same command of Jesus that the disciples heard: Go outside your boundaries; teach what I have commanded you.  We have done that as best we can – most of us for a long time. Now, for many of us, our boundaries are different and we teach in different ways. Age and infirmity have presented new boundaries, certainly.  

But much more has changed. In Mark’s telling of the story, he has Jesus say, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” How different a world we are in today. In reading the paper and listening to the news, we are forced to go outside our own boundaries, our boundaries of Christianity and of western ways. We have come to realize that our way is not the only way or necessarily the better way. Sometimes it is not good to preach the gospel of Jesus, at least not in words.

But much of Jesus’ work was not in words but in his being with people — healing, comforting, being attentive to others, reassuring them. The focus has shifted — from Jesus doing the work to our doing the work, the work of loving one another in the ways given to us. We are called upon each day to be faithful to our own commitment, to that way given to each of us — our daily work, our retirement, our care for our families, our concern for those with whom we work.


Mary Swain SL

Mary Swain SL has been a consultant to the National Religious Retirement Office and has served on the board for the National Association for Treasurers of Religious Institutes. Along with her math background and service to the Loretto Community in the financial area, she has experience as a church organist and plans and prepares materials for Loretto liturgies at Loretto Motherhouse and for special occasions. Mary resides at Loretto Motherhouse, the grounds of which receive her careful tending and loving touch.