The outpouring of the Holy Spirit gave birth to the Church

NOTE: In those places where the observance of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord has been transferred to this day, the Mass and readings of the Ascension are used.

The Ascension of the Lord

MAY 24, 2020 SEVENTH SUNDAY OF EASTER

FOCUS:    The outpouring of the Holy Spirit gave birth to the Church and sustains her, and us, still today.

Today is the seventh and last Sunday of Easter, and we might think of the message today as one of prayer. In the Church calendar, we are one week from Pentecost. In the readings, however, we have events taking place after Jesus’ ascension, and at the Last Supper. All of this signals a time of transition – and while any time is a good time for prayer, asking for help and reaching out to God in faith is especially helpful and fruitful during periods of change.

We picture Jesus standing between heaven and earth, with his eyes raised to heaven. He says,And now I will no longer be in the world. He recalls all that he has done in the Father’s name and that he has given him glory; and then he prays for his disciples. He prays for those whom the Father gave him and who have kept the Father’s word. 

This is very different from the prayer offered in the garden that we hear in the other Gospels at this point in Jesus’ life. Jesus is not off alone praying to God about his upcoming capture, trial, and crucifixion. In this Gospel there is no agony in this garden. In fact, there is no garden at all. Instead, he is in the presence of his disciples, entering into this moment of transition beside them.

The Apostles – including some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers – met together in the upper room in Jerusalem after Jesus had ascended, and together they devoted themselves with one accord to prayer. Here Jesus’ physical presence is no longer among them, but they pray in his name, as they were taught. And so he is still beside them in this time of adjustment and new realities.

And Peter, the one upon whom our Church is built, well, he writes to his community about praying. It might not seem so at first, until we remember that all things come from God, and all glory should be given to him. And so his words, rejoice…rejoice exultantly…blessed are you…glorify God all speak to ways in which we give praise and thanks to God. Even in the midst of suffering, and being insulted for the name of Christ, whether one laments, petitions, or gives thanks and rejoices, one is praying and giving glory to God.

So on this Seventh Sunday of Easter, when the readings allow us to think about the need for and the power of prayer, may our own prayers be elevated in praise and thanksgiving for the new life we have received in Christ’s resurrection. And may God’s grace prepare our hearts for the celebration of Pentecost, where the outpouring of the Holy Spirit gave birth to the Church and sustains her, and us, still today.

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