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Reflections on forthcoming Mass readings. Note: More guides are available under “Resources.”
BY Tom and April Hoopes
May 13 is Ascension Thursday, a holy day of obligation in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Hartford, Conn., Newark, N.J., and all of Nebraska. Elsewhere, Sunday, May 16, is Ascension Sunday. In those dioceses which celebrate Ascension Thursday, May 16 is the Seventh Sunday of Easter.
Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to visit Portugal from May 11-14 and, weather permitting, will helicopter in to Fatima for a day.
As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, he wrote the theological commentary on the Third Secret of Fatima when the secret was made public in the year 2000. The Third Secret was a dreamlike sequence not unlike the book of Revelation that showed the Holy Father being attacked. Says Cardinal Ratzinger: “The key word of this third part is the threefold cry: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’ The beginning of the Gospel comes to mind: ‘Repent and believe the good news.’ To understand the signs of the times means to accept the urgency of penance, of conversion, of faith. … In a conversation with me, Sister Lucia said that it appeared ever more clearly to her that the purpose of all the apparitions was to help people to grow more and more in faith, hope and love; everything else was intended to lead to this.”
May 13 is normally the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, though it is supplanted by Ascension Thursday this year. Watch last year’s The 13th Day (The13thDay.com) as well as The Miracle of Fatima so that you can compare and contrast.
Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47:2-3, 6-9; Ephesians 1:17-23; Luke 24:46-53
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Acts 7:55-60; Psalm 97:1-2, 6-7, 9; Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20; John 17:20-26
“This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”
Thus say the angels to the apostles in today’s first reading. It’s one of those compelling Scripture passages that seem secondary to the main point of the story and yet point to the core of it. It seems to point to a strong tendency in Christians: looking up at the sky and contemplating the bigness of the universe instead of serving God or expecting Jesus to actually return and hold us accountable.
Today’s Ascension narratives are very clear about what we are called to do after the Ascension. The first reading sums up the good news as “all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions.” What were those instructions?
First, they were to pray for the gift of the Holy Spirit. He didn’t want his apostles looking at the bigness of the sky; he wanted them on their knees asking the bigness of the sky to enter into them. The Holy Spirit was the one who “hovered over the face of the waters” when the world was in chaos and brought order there. It’s Jesus’ sincere hope that the Holy Spirit will similarly bring order to the chaos of our souls.
Their next instruction: “Repentance, for the forgiveness of sins” is to be “preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” This will be the work not of the apostles in their current state, but of the apostles supercharged by the Holy Spirit. The second reading describes that “supercharging”: “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ ... give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.”
In most of the Church, and in several dioceses in the United States, these readings come on Ascension Thursday — nine days before Pentecost Sunday. They are a call to us to pray, to join in the great novena of prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas.