Saturday, June 25, 2022

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

Christ Sending Out the Seventy Disciples, Two by Two | Reprodukce slavných  obrazů na zeď | Posters.cz

Joseph Tissot

 

14th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

 

Readings: Isaiah 66:1‑14  Galatians 6:14‑18  Luke 10:1‑12,17‑20 

 

"Let all the earth cry out to God with joy!"  (Ps 66). The refrain from this Sunday's responsorial psalm invites the whole of creation to celebrate the Lord's mighty deeds.  As we hear the promise of the Lord's restoration of Jerusalem in the Book of Isaiah and the success of the seventy‑two disciples' mission in Luke’s Gospel, let us celebrate that the Christian message is gospel, “good news,” of the Lord's victory through Christ over the forces of evil and death. 

The Isaiah reading is filled with loving maternal images proclaiming the Lord's care for the Babylonian exiles who are returning to Jerusalem.  It begins with an invitation to rejoice over Jerusalem which is personified as a mother who will now nurse her children. “Exult, exult with her,/ all you who were mourning over her! Oh, that you may suck fully of the milk of her comfort,/ that you may nurse with delight at her abundant breasts!” The foundation for this joy is the Lord's promise to restore the city, like a mother comforting her children, and care for the exiles who return to her.  “As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap;/ As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you;/ in Jerusalem you shall find your comfort.” 

In the second reading Paul concludes Galatians with a summary of the chief points of the letter.  He has had to defend his status as an apostle against his opponents at Galatia who were advocating the circumcision of Gentile converts.  Now Paul asserts that his only boast is in "the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ" which he contrasts with circumcision. The cross, not circumcision, has defeated the power of sin and begun the process by which the world will be "created anew."  Paul concludes by demanding, "Henceforth, let no one trouble me, for I bear the brand marks (stigmata) of Jesus in my body."  In contrast to his opponents who boasted of the "bodily" observance of circumcision, Paul insists that the scars of his floggings and stoning in the service of the gospel are the authentic marks of a follower of the crucified Christ (see 2 Corinthians 11‑12).

The Gospel is Luke's unique account of the sending of seventy-two disciples to continue Jesus' work of healing and proclaiming the arrival of the Kingdom.  Earlier in the Galilean ministry the twelve had been sent on a similar mission (see Lk 9:1‑10).  This second sending of seventy-two foreshadows the Church's mission to all the nations of the world which number seventy two in the Jewish tradition (see Genesis 10 and Acts 1:8). 


In his instructions Jesus stresses the urgency of the disciples' task.  Although he sends them “as lambs in the midst of wolves,” they are to be single minded and unconcerned with such worldly things as a “walking staff,” “traveling bag,” foot-wear, food, or lodgings.  Their initial message is to be Shalom, “Peace.”  Then they are to continue Jesus' work by curing the sick and announcing: "The reign of God is at hand."  Despite the joyful nature of the message, some towns will reject it and thereby bring judgment upon themselves.  For their part, the disciples do not need to be concerned with this.  They are to simply say, "We shake the dust of this town from our feet as testimony against you.  But know that the reign of God is near."

The conclusion of the Gospel returns to the theme of joy established in the Isaiah reading. Upon their return the seventy-two are filled with "jubilation" saying, “Master, even the demons are subject to us in your name.”  Jesus first affirms that his power has made their mission successful by saying, "I watched Satan fall from the sky like lightning.  See what I have done; I have given you power to tread on snakes and scorpions and all the forces of the enemy."  But then he goes on to tell them that this power is the basis for even greater joy. "Nevertheless, do not rejoice so much in the fact that the devils are subject to you as that your names are inscribed in heaven."  The disciples who rejoice in sharing Jesus' work of bringing the reign of God will have the ultimate joy of life with God.

Monday, June 20, 2022

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

 

Reflection – Elisha, Where Are You?  

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time C

 

Readings: 1 Kings 19:16,19‑21  Galatians 5:1,13‑18  Luke 9:51‑62

 

As we settle into the more leisurely routine of summer, today's readings shock us by their blunt demands that we break from the ways of the world in responding to God's call to follow Jesus.  "You are my inheritance, O Lord" (Ps 16).  Only those who can pray the words of today's psalm response are capable of the radical commitment of Christian discipleship.

In the first reading from 1 Kings, the great prophet Elijah calls Elisha, the son of Shaphat, to succeed him in a prophetic ministry which will demand a fearless commitment to fighting against pagan influences in Israel (see 1 Kings 17‑19).   The encounter between the two emphasizes Elisha’s willingness to break from his past life and to embrace his mission.  As frequently occurs in the Bible, Elisha is called out of his ordinary life.   He is plowing with twelve yoke of oxen, the mark of an extremely wealthy family.  Despite his comfortable station, Elisha responds with exemplary eagerness, when invested with Elijah's mantle.  The story tells us that he "left the oxen" and "ran after Elijah."  Although Elisha does ask to bid farewell to his family, his slaughtering of the farm equipment and yoke of oxen represents a complete break with the past and a total surrender to God's will.   Neither wealth nor family ties can keep Elisha from following Elijah and becoming his attendant. 

In the second reading Paul is clarifying for his Galatian converts what he means by Christian freedom.  On the one hand, Christians are "freed" from "the yoke of slavery" represented by adherence to the Mosaic Law as a way of salvation.  But on the other hand, Christians are not called to "a freedom which gives free rein to the flesh," i.e. "fornication, impurity,  licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy,  anger, selfishness, dissension, factions, envy, drunkenness,  carousing, and the like" (see 5:19‑21).   Christian freedom is a gift of God's "Spirit" which calls us to serve one another in love and thus to fulfill the purpose of the law.  In the end, this is both more demanding and paradoxically more liberating than submission to a legal code.  Paul reduces the whole of Christian ethics to the following exhortation: “Out of love, place yourselves at one another's service. The whole law has found its fulfillment in this one saying: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”  

This Sunday's Gospel begins Luke's unique account of Jesus' long journey to Jerusalem (9:51‑19:17).  Jesus' fateful trek begins in a solemn way; Luke introduces the section with the portentous phrase, "As the time approached when Jesus was to be taken from this world, he firmly resolved to proceed toward Jerusalem . . ." (9:51).  For Luke, Jesus is beginning his "exodus," his divinely prescribed fate to go to Jerusalem to suffer but also enter his glory by being "taken" into heaven (see Luke 24).  In the course of his journey, Jesus will teach his would be disciples the requirements of "following" him.


The radical demands of being a follower of Jesus are evident in the opening incidents of the journey.  Jesus is not received by a Samaritan village which provokes James and John to request, “Lord, would you not have us call down fire from heaven to destroy them.”  Unlike the prophet Elijah who did call down fire to destroy his enemies (see 2 Kings 1), Jesus lives out his own teaching on love of the enemy (see Lk 6:27‑36) by reprimanding his vengeful disciples and moving on to another town.  

Three subsequent encounters with would be followers provide Jesus with the opportunity to give proverbs about the cost of discipleship.  First of all, the disciples must be willing to abandon their earthly homes, like Elisha in the first reading. "The foxes have lairs, the birds of the sky nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head." Jesus' followers also cannot delay the call of the kingdom by waiting to be free of normal family obligations.  The man who wants to wait for his father to die before following Jesus receives the challenge: "Let the dead bury their dead; come away and proclaim the kingdom." The final encounter is a direct contrast to Elijah's call of Elisha in the first reading.  To the man who wants to take leave of his family at home Jesus says, "Whoever puts his hand to the plow but keeps looking back is unfit for the reign of God." Each of these proverbs should be heard as a call, rather than a reproach.  Jesus, who is "firmly resolved to proceed toward Jerusalem" where he will meet suffering and death but also enter his glory, is the model for the disciple's commitment.

Monday, June 13, 2022

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ C

 eCatholicism - Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ - Receiving and  Becoming

The Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ C

 

Readings: Genesis 14:18‑20  1 Corinthians 11:23‑26  Luke 9:11‑17

 

In the transition between the Easter season and ordinary time, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ.   This Sunday's readings present us with richness of the Eucharist as thanksgiving, as re-enactment of Jesus' sacrificial death for us, as anticipation of his return, and finally as pattern for our life in following Jesus. 

The Old Testament reading from Genesis recounts Melchizedek's blessing of Abram after his victory over four kings and the rescue of his nephew Lot (see Genesis 14).  Melchizedek is the king of Salem, or Jerusalem, and his meeting with Abram is a joyful meal in thanksgiving for the victory which has rid Canaanite territory of a foreign menace.   Early Christian writers understood this story as an anticipation of the Christian Eucharist and the priest‑king Melchizedek as a type for Christ (see Hebrews).  In the course of sharing a meal of bread and wine, Melchizedek blesses both Abram and God Most High who brought him victory. "Blessed be Abram by God Most High,/ the creator of heaven and earth;/ And blessed be God Most High,/ 

who delivered your foes into your hand." Our Eucharist shares this character of thanksgiving and blessing for a God's victory over sin and death in Christ.

The reading from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians is the earliest record of Jesus' actions and words at his final meal with his disciples on the night before he died.  "The Lord's supper" was celebrated both as a proclamation of Jesus' saving death and an anticipation of his return in glory.  Paul recounts that the Lord Jesus said of the broken bread: "This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." The cup is his blood which seals the new covenant promised by Jeremiah: "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." Paul concludes by reminding the Corinthians that the Eucharist both proclaims Jesus' sacrificial death and anticipates his return in glory. "Every time, then, you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes!"


The Gospel is Luke's account of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.  It comes at a crucial turning point in Luke's story and draws a sharp contrast between the power of Jesus and his disciples.  Jesus is completing his Galilean ministry and is about to embark on his journey to Jerusalem where he will suffer, die, rise, and ascend to the Father.  His disciples have just returned from a successful journey on which through the power given them by Jesus they proclaimed the good news and cured diseases (Lk 9:1‑10).  Now Jesus challenges the Twelve to feed the crowds who have followed them to a "deserted place."  But they are powerless to satisfy the needs of the group that numbers five thousand men alone and are forced to say:  “Five loaves and two fish are all we have, unless we ourselves go and buy food for all these people.”  Only Jesus, like the Lord who fed his people with manna in the wilderness (Exodus 16), can satisfy the needs of the crowd.  He does so in a superabundant way that points to his mission to reconstitute the twelve tribes of Israel.  The account ends with the note: “They all ate and were satisfied.  And when the left‑over fragments were picked up, they filled twelve wicker baskets.  (Lk 9:17)

This meal both looks back to Jesus' actions in the Galilean ministry and forward to the events in Jerusalem.  In the opening sentence we are told, "Jesus spoke to the crowds of the reign of God, and he healed all who were in need of healing."  This is a summary of Jesus' work in the Galilean ministry (see Lk 4:14‑9:9).  Jesus' actions in feeding the people also anticipate the Last Supper and the breaking of bread in the Emmaus story.   In all three Jesus "blessed," "broke," and "gave" bread.  Luke is the only evangelist to link this feeding miracle to the confession of Jesus as the Messiah, his first prediction of the passion and resurrection, and the need for the disciples to follow him on this path (see Lk 9:18‑27).  To celebrate the Eucharist the disciples must share in Jesus’ mission to the poor and the sick (Lk 9:1‑6) and also must be willing to follow him to the cross.  After announcing that he must go to Jerusalem to be rejected, killed, and be raised on the third day, Jesus says to the disciples, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me."  (9:23)

Monday, June 6, 2022

Trinity Sunday C

 

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Trinity Sunday C 

 

Readings: Proverbs 8:22‑31  Romans 5:1‑5  John 16:12‑15

 

Rather than dwelling on the mystery of God's inner life, the readings for this feast of the Holy Trinity celebrate what God has done for us: the gift of an orderly creation, salvation through Christ, and guidance for our continued pursuit of the truth in Christ.  As we reflect on the mystery of God's love for us, let us joyfully sing the refrain of this Sunday's psalm, "O Lord, our God, how wonderful is your name in all the earth" (Ps 8).

The first reading from Proverbs is part of the speech of Lady Wisdom (hokmah, a feminine noun in Hebrew), who personifies the artistry of God's creation.  In the whole of her speech (see Proverbs 8), Wisdom invites the simple to come to her and receive the greatest gift of all: the path to life.  In our section, she is giving her credentials as God's “first‑born,”  “craftsman,” and “delight,” who “played” before God as he ordered the cosmos.   Using an onomasticon, listing the parts of the cosmos, Lady Wisdom asserts that, first of all, she existed before God's formation of the earth, the underworld depths, the mountains and hills; and secondly, that she was with God as he established the heavens, fixed the foundations of the earth, and set for the sea its limit.  Finally, Lady Wisdom says that her special delight was in humanity to whom she will extend the offer of life.  In the verses which follow today's reading, she invites us with the following words. "So now, O children, listen to me;/ instruction and wisdom do not reject!/ . . . For the one who finds me finds life,/ and wins favor from the Lord;/ But the one who misses me harms self;/ all who hate me love death."  (Prv 8:32‑36)

The Epistle from Romans is Paul's reflection on the hopeful situation of Christians who have already been "justified by faith" in Christ's death and resurrection and are now awaiting "the glory of God," the completion of God's kingdom.  In this tension-filled situation, Christians experience "afflictions," but they can boast of them as they endure in hope.  The foundation of their hope is what God has already done for them in his Son, Christ, and by the gift of his Spirit which has been poured out upon them in the Messianic age.  In Paul's words, "this  hope will not leave us disappointed, because the love of God has  been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Rom 5:5). 

The Gospel is from John's farewell discourse in which Jesus promises the disciples that, after his departure, the Spirit of truth will come to guide them “to all truth.”  Jesus' promise emphasizes two things about the Spirit or Paraclete's role.   First of all, he will continue the work of revelation that Jesus has done.  Jesus tells the disciples: "He will not speak on his own, but will speak only what he hears . . .In doing this he will give glory to me, because he will have received from me what he will announce to you.”       


Secondly, the Spirit will guide the disciples in their continued pursuit of the truth of God's mysterious love.  Jesus promises: "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. When he comes, however, being the Spirit of truth he will guide you to all truth."  This truth to which the Spirit guides us is an ever deeper entrance into the very mystery of God's life of love.  Jesus concludes this section with the words: "All that the Father has belongs to me. 

That is why I said that what he (the Spirit) will announce to you he will have from me."

Monday, May 30, 2022

Pentecost Sunday A B C

The Holy Spirit Painting by Danny Hahlbohm | Pixels
The Holy Spirit Painting by Danny Hahlbohm

 

Pentecost Sunday A B C

 

Readings: Acts 2:1-11 1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13   John 20:19-23

 

“Lord send out your spirit and renew the face of the earth” (Ps 104).  In remembering the first Christian Pentecost, we fervently pray in the refrain of the responsorial psalm that God’s Holy Spirit renew the world and the church with the gifts of unity, peace, joy, and forgiveness.

The Acts reading describes the descent of the Holy Spirit on the disciples at the Jewish pilgrimage feast of Pentecost (Shavuoth) in fulfillment of prophetic expectations of the final age when all the nations will know the God of Israel.  Isaiah 66 speaks of God’s coming in the following way: “For behold the Lord will come as a fire . . . with a flame of fire . . . I am coming to gather all the nations and tongues” (Is 66:15.18).  As Peter will affirm in his Pentecost sermon, the prophet Joel announced: “God says: ‘It will come to pass in the last days,/ that I will pour out a portion of my spirit upon all flesh’” (Acts 2:17).  Luke’s account of Pentecost has all these elements.  The Spirit descends upon the gathered group of one hundred and twenty would-be witnesses to Jesus’s death, resurrection, and ascension with a noise “like a strong driving wind.”  Tongues “as of fire” part and rest on each of them, and the Holy Spirit enables them to speak in different languages to Jewish pilgrims from most of the known world.  In a symbolic reversal of the confusion of tongues at the tower of Babel incident (Genesis11), the disciples speak in understandable languages of “the mighty works of God.”  As Peter will proclaim in his Pentecost sermon, Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension have begun the final age when all are called to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:14-41).

In the reading from 1 Corinthians, Paul insists that the Holy Spirit’s various gifts are meant for the common good of the community and for the unity of what were previously divided groups.  In Corinth some were using the possession of spectacular gifts like tongues as a basis for claiming superiority within the community.  Paul reminds the Corinthians that one Spirit gives various gifts--wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, working miracles, prophecy, tongues, and interpreting tongues--for the building up of the whole community, and not for the exaltation of the individual (12:4-11).  He also uses the body of Christ metaphor to express the interdependence of all members--Jews or Greeks, slave or free--upon one another because they share a common baptism “into one body.”


The Gospel selection is John’s account of the gift of the Holy Spirit to the apostles on Easter night.  John places all the key saving events--the Resurrection, the ascent to the Father and the bestowal of the Spirit--on Easter (John 20:1-23).  When Jesus appears to the disciples on the evening of that first day of the week, he has already ascended to the Father as he had announced to Mary Magdalene (John 20:17).  He can now give them the gifts he had promised in the farewell discourse: peace, joy, and the Spirit/Paraclete (John 14-17).  Twice he greets the apostles with “Peace be with you” (cf. John 14:27).  When they see his hands and his side as proof that he was crucified and has now returned to the Father, the disciples experience the joy that Jesus had promised them (cf. 16:20-24).  Finally, Jesus sends them into the world as he was sent by the Father.  He breathes on them and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound.”  As God “breathed” life into Adam in Genesis, Jesus is recreating the community of disciples with the life of God’s forgiving love.

Monday, May 23, 2022

7th Sunday of Easter C

 The Alpha And The Omega Returns - Digging The Word

7th  Sunday of Easter C

 

Readings: Acts 7:55-60  Revelation 22:12-14,16-20

    John 17:20-26

 

On this Sunday between the feasts of Jesus’ Ascension and Pentecost, the liturgy calls us to unity with both the risen Jesus and one another in the very love of God.  In this age of religious, racial, and social factionalism we are challenged, in the concluding words of the second reading, to pray for the coming of Jesus’ Kingdom of love.  “Amen!  Come, Lord Jesus!”

Luke’s account of Stephen’s martyrdom in Acts highlights his fearless commitment to following Jesus, even to the point of forgiving his executioners.  In the previous section of Acts, Stephen has testified in a long speech before the Sanhedrin that, as Jesus himself had said (Lk 21:5-6), the temple is not a permanent institution and that the execution of Jesus was simply the culmination of repeated rejections of God’s prophets (7:2-53).  Infuriated by Stephen’s charges, the council drags him out of the city and begins to stone him.  In his death Stephen is united with the risen Jesus. Filled with the Holy Spirit, he sees the glory of God with Jesus, as the glorious Son of Man, standing at God’s right hand.  Like Jesus (Lk 23:46), Stephen prays and hands over his spirit with the words: “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Finally, in imitation of his master, Stephen forgives his murderers, as he cries out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them” (see Lk 23:34).

Stephen’s death does not stop the preaching of the gospel; on the contrary, it sets in motion the spread of “the Way” beyond Jerusalem.  Despite the persecution that breaks out against the church in Jerusalem, the gospel is preached through the ministries of Philip and Peter in Samaria, Judea and Galilee (Acts 8:1-40; 9:31-43).  Even Saul, who participates in Stephen’s execution, will be converted from a persecutor of “the Way” to the ‘chosen instrument’ who will carry Jesus’ name before the Gentiles (Acts 9:1-30).

The second reading is a series of prophetic oracles from the conclusion of the Book of Revelation.  Jesus, as “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the Last, the Beginning and the End,” warns John that he is coming soon and the righteous will be rewarded.  In the early Church, the nearness of Jesus’ coming is regularly tied to exhortations to be faithful to the Christian way of life.  In our own time, such warnings challenge us to believe that God is not far off, but very much involved with the ethical and social issues we face.  Only fidelity to the gospel will enable us, in the words of Revelation, to “wash” our “robes so as to have free access to the tree of life and enter the city (the heavenly Jerusalem) through its gates.”

The reading concludes with a mutual summons to “come.”  Righteous Christians are invited by the Spirit and the Bride (the glorified Church of martyrs) to come to the Eucharistic celebration: “Let him who is thirsty come forward, and let all who desire it accept the gift of life-giving water.”  They in turn pray to the Lord to come: “Amen!  Come, Lord Jesus!”  Only those who long for the completion of Jesus’ Kingdom belong at the Eucharistic feast which celebrates the future Messianic banquet.


The Gospel is the conclusion of Jesus’ prayer to his Father at the end of the farewell discourse in John 17.  Jesus prays that we, those who have come to believe through the disciples’ words, may be one as he and the Father are one.  This is the goal of Jesus’ mission in John’s Gospel.  His act of love in laying down his life reveals the glory of God’s love for humanity, and now that glory is to be given to the community of his followers.“I have given them the glory you gave me, that they may be one, as we are one—I living in them, you living in me--that their unity may be complete.  So shall the world know that you sent me, and that you love them as you loved me”. 

The basis for this unity is the indwelling of God’s own love, the eternal love the Father has for the Son.“Father, all those you gave me I would have in my company where I am, to see the glory of mine which is your gift to me, because of the love you bore me before the world began.”  (17:24)

As we work for unity within the Roman Catholic Church and among the various Christian communions, let us remember that this unity will never be achieved through the force of political power nor by the shrillness of acrimonious debate, but only through the sign of love modeled on Jesus.  Jesus’ concluding words are:“To them I have revealed your name, and I will continue to reveal it so that your love for me may live in them, and I may live in them.”

Ascension C

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Ascension C

 

Readings: Acts 1:1-11    Ephesians 1:17-23   Luke 24:46-53

 

            The Feast of the Ascension celebrates both the resurrected Jesus’ triumph over the power of sin and evil by his ascension to the right hand of the Father and also the apostles’ mission, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to witness to the Christ’s victory throughout the world.  Let us rejoice in Jesus’ enthronement in the refrain of our responsorial psalm: “God mounts his throne to shouts of joy;/ a blare of trumpets for the Lord” (Ps 48).

            The account of Jesus’ ascension in the first reading comes from the introduction to Luke’s second volume, the Acts of the Apostles.  As with his Gospel, Luke addresses Acts to Theophilus (“lover of God”).  Our reading recapitulates the events of the Gospel with special emphasis on Jesus’ commissioning of the apostles to wait in Jerusalem to receive the power of the Holy Spirit which will send them as his witnesses to the whole world. Luke begins by summarizing what he narrated in his Gospel: Jesus’ actions and teachings until his ascension, his choice of the apostles, his suffering and death, his resurrection appearances over a forty day period in which he spoke of the kingdom of God and proved that he was alive, and his command not to depart from Jerusalem, but to await the Father’s promise of their baptism with the Holy Spirit.  He prefaces his second account of the ascension (see Luke 24:50-53) with a dialogue between the apostles and Jesus at their last meeting.  They ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” But Jesus says that it is not for them to know “the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority.”  Instead he promises: “. . . 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.”  Then like Elijah in 2 Kings 2 and certain traditions associated with Moses, Jesus is “lifted up, and a cloud takes him from their sight.”  For Luke this is Jesus’ enthronement as the triumphant Messiah King and Son of Man at God’s right hand (see Daniel 7:13 and Luke 1:32; Acts 2:22-36; 7:56).  His exodus or departure has been a part of God’s plan from the beginning (see Luke 9:28-36; 9:51).  Like the prophets Moses and Elijah who appeared with him in glory at his transfiguration to talk of his exodus (9:28-36), Jesus must leave physically for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on his successors who will carry on his work (see Deuteronomy 34 and 2 Kings 2).  The “two men dressed in white garments” who stand beside the apostles as they witness the ascension may be Moses and Elijah (cf. Luke 9:28-36; 24:1-8).  They do not allow the apostles to continue to gawk at Jesus’ ascension, but rather assure them of Jesus’ return as the Messiah/Son of Man who will establish his kingdom after their work of witnessing to him throughout the earth.

            The Epistle reading is taken from the thanksgiving section of Ephesians in which the Paul prays that God, through the resurrected and ascended Christ, will give the Christian community, his body on earth, “a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.”  In Christ’s resurrection from the dead, ascension, and enthronement at his right hand, God has defeated the powers of evil that formerly ruled the world--“every principality, authority, power, and dominion and every name that is named.”   God has put all things beneath Christ’s feet and given 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.”  Paul’s prayer is that the Christian community will have the eyes of their hearts enlightened by the risen and triumphant Christ so that they know “the hope that belongs to his (God the Father’s) 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.”

            The Gospel is the conclusion of Luke’s Gospel which recounts Jesus’ appearance to the Eleven apostles in Jerusalem.  Jesus begins by explaining how his death and resurrection were part of the divine plan which he had told them about and had been announced in Moses, the prophets and the psalms:  “Thus it is written that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day.”  He then commissions them to be witnesses who are to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins in his name “to the nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”  They are to stay in Jerusalem until they are “clothed with power from on high,” the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2).  Luke’s Gospel ends with Jesus’ ascension into heaven and the disciples’ returning with great joy to Jerusalem where they are continually blessing God in the temple as they await the gift of the Holy Spirit.