Ascension Sunday: The Lord ‘Taken Up Into Heaven’

User’s Guide to the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord

Gebhard Fugel, ‘The Ascension of Our Lord’ (detail), ca. 1893
Gebhard Fugel, ‘The Ascension of Our Lord’ (detail), ca. 1893 (photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Sunday, May 12, is the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord. Mass readings: Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; Ephesians 1:17-23 or Ephesians 4:1-13 or 4:1-7, 11-13; Mark 16:15-20.

The Ascension is a wondrous event: The Lord, by his own power, ascends to heaven. In so doing, he opens a path for us, too.

As Pope St. John Paul II reminded the faithful in 1979: “Jesus took his place. After having undergone the humiliation of his passion and death, Jesus took his place at the right-hand of God; he took his place with his eternal Father. But he also entered heaven as our Head. Whereupon, in the expression of Leo the Great, the glory of the Head became the hope of the body. For all eternity Christ takes his place as the firstborn among many brethren: Our nature is with God in Christ. And as man, the Lord Jesus lives forever to intercede for us with the Father. At the same time, from his throne of glory, Jesus sends out to the whole Church a message of hope and a call to holiness. Because of Christ’s merits, because of his intercession with the Father, we are able to attain justice and holiness of life, in him.”

As Ephesians affirms: “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

He opened the gates to the righteous who had fallen asleep — and to us!

Jesus also ascends to summon the Advocate — whose work at Pentecost we will celebrate next week — and, like the disciples, calls us to preach the Good News.

The Gospel of Mark describes: “ … the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.”

This solemnity offers us hope.

St. John Paul also encouraged in 1979: “[B]e imbued with the hope that is so much a part of the mystery of the Ascension of Jesus. Be deeply conscious of Christ’s victory and triumph over sin and death. Realize that the strength of Christ is greater than our weakness, greater than the weakness of the whole world. Try to understand and share the joy that Mary experienced in knowing that her Son had taken his place with his Father, whom he loved infinitely. And renew your faith today in the promise of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has gone to prepare a place for us, so that he can come back again and take us to himself.”

Pope Francis (R) embraces new Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich after he appointed him during an Ordinary Public Consistory for the creation of new cardinals on October 5, 2019 at St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican.

Pope Francis vs. Cardinal Hollerich

EDITORIAL: The Pope’s comments regarding women’s ordination in his interview with CBS put a damper on the movement to alter the Church’s teaching on the priesthood and diaconate.