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The Ascension of the Lord,
Twenty-second digests for the congregation: Arrange with your liturgy committee to have these brief historical introductions read to the assembly before you do each reading.
Who should announce these before the first and second readings, and before the gospel acclamation? They're not Scripture, nor homiletic, so they shouldn't be delivered from the ambo. They're a modest teaching. So let the presider say them from the chair. Let the lector turn toward the presider and listen.
Print this page, cut it at the blue lines, and give the introduction paragraphs to the person who will speak them.
|The Ascension of the Lord, Years A, B & C,|
May 9 or May 12, 2013
Before the first reading:
The evangelist Luke wrote two books aiming to educate pagan converts to Christianity about their new religion and its roots. This is the introduction to his second book.
After the psalm, before the second reading:
Many early people believed that a complex hierarchy of angels and spiritual powers stood between God and themselves, both mediating and interfering. The author of Ephesians wants his audience to feel confident of their access to God in Christ, and in Christ's superiority over all other powers.
Before the gospel acclamation:
This is the absolute conclusion of Saint Matthew's gospel. It does not describe the ascension of Jesus, but it tells of a mission and frankly describes the disciples' lingering doubts.
To pay for use of the words above, please subtract an equal number of optional words from other places in the liturgy (click here for some suggestions).
In any case, the original audience for both the gospel and Acts were Gentile converts to Christianity, in cosmopolitan Greece, after the deaths of the apostles. These new members needed information about the origins and the spread of the community they were joining. In particular, it must have comforted them to learn that even the first, closest followers of Jesus misunderstood his intentions ("Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?") The book of Acts will go on to explain the early spread of Christianity among Jews, then rejection by mainstream Jews, successful outreach to pagans, then conflict within Christianity between members of Jewish origin and members with pagan roots. In other words, for its intended audience, the book puts everything into context.Today's passage explains why the risen Jesus is no longer directly observable in the young church, but how that church is still carrying out his mission. Jesus hints at the gift of the Holy Spirit, which the Christians were going to use to explain their ongoing sense of purpose and direction. Proclaiming it: Emphasize the sentence about waiting for "the promise of the Father, ...[to] be baptized with the Holy Spirit." That enables your hearers to relate this reading with the coming feast of Pentecost.
Jesus' last words, which you should emphasize appropriately, set the agenda for all of the book of Acts: "and you will be my witnesses ... to the ends of the earth."
The Historical Background: The letter to the Hebrews was written for Jewish converts to Christianity who were missing the rituals and institutions of Judaism. One of those was the annual entrance of their priest into an innermost part of the temple for a ritual sacrifice. For all the ceremonies and functionaries that the converts forfeited upon their conversion, the author shows that Jesus replaces and surpasses what they lost.The Literary Structure: Now the style of argumentation here will seem odd to those formed in Western traditions. It's the style of first century rabbis, a logic familiar to its original audience, but seeming tortured to most of us now. In this instance, it's a series of contrasts: "The Jewish priest does this, but Christ does that." Except to us the relationships between their respective accomplishments are not so clear. Perhaps a table will clarify them:
|Old Way (in Judaism)||New Way (in Christ)|
|Priest enters a man-made sanctuary||Christ enters heaven|
|The next contrast is not between Old Way and New, but between all other humans and Christ|
|Priest offers sacrifice annually||Christ appears once before God at the end of ages, to take away sin by his sacrifice|
|All men and women die once, then appear for judgment||Jesus was offered once, and will appear bringing salvation|
|Priest enters sanctuary with lamb's blood||We have confidence of entry into heaven through Jesus' blood|
|Priest enters sanctuary through a veil||We enter through the veil that is Christ's flesh|
|He's just a priest||Christ is "a great priest over the house of God"|
|Several other commentaries on these passages. All are thoughtful, all quite readable, from the scholarly to the popular.
Links may be incomplete more than a few weeks before the "due date."
|Father Roger Karban of Belleville, Illinois, USA, writes a newspaper column about every Sunday's readings. Here are his essays for today's passages, from: Read all of Father Karban's recent columns here, at the site of FOSIL, the Faithful of Southern Illinois.||Bible Study pages of Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, Picayune, Mississippi|
|The Text This Week; links to homilies, art works, movies and other resources on the week's scripture themes||Saint Louis University's standard-setting site for Sunday liturgy. Of the six writers whose works are customarily posted, all cover the readings of Easter 7 and three have essays about Ascension readings, too. (Caveat lector. As of April 14, 2013, Lector's Notes' author is speculating about the exact URL of SLU's offering, since it's not yet posted. If you get a 404 Not Found, try here).|
The Lectionary selections in the frame at the left, if any, are there for your convenience. The publishers of the page in that frame have no connection, except for membership in the one Body of Christ, with the publisher of this page. Likewise the publishers of the pages on the links above.
Last modified: April 14, 2013