PORTLAND---Bishop Robert P. Deeley celebrated a special afternoon Mass on the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Portland on Thursday, May 10 (additional pictures below).
This Holy Day of Obligation is sometimes referred to as “Ascension Thursday” because its official observance takes place exactly 40 days after Easter, the day of Christ’s resurrection.
It is the final piece of the paschal mystery which began with Christ's passion and death. Because Christ ascended, we, as members of the Body of Christ, also look forward to ascending into heaven after our bodily resurrection.
“We hear in Mark’s Gospel today that ‘the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God,’” Bishop Deeley said during his homily. “Translated for us, what that means is that Jesus returns to the place he had left to come to be with us on earth, to save us from our sins, to open for us the promise of heaven, and to show us how to live. “
On this solemnity, we are also reminded of our evangelizing mission as Christians. Before Christ ascended, he commanded his disciples to await the arrival of the Holy Spirit and then to "go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15).
“When we think of sharing in the mission of Jesus and proclaiming the Gospel we most often think of the acts of charity that we know are essential to our Christian faith,” added the bishop. “Having known ourselves as loved by God in Jesus, we believe that we are called to do the same, to bring God’s love to others. From the beginning of the Church in the time of the apostles to our own day that is indeed the mission of the Church. And that work is the work of the Church. It is our work as followers of Jesus.”
The bishop asked those gathered to always make sure the good work they do is grounded in an appreciation of why they do it.
“We are doing the work of the Lord Jesus whose love for all becomes known in the love of his disciples,” said the bishop. “This feast reminds us, my friends, that we meet the Lord Jesus, now ascended into heaven, in the Word of Scripture and in the breaking of the bread. We meet him when we celebrate Eucharist. In the act of faith we make each time we gather, we are caught up in the wonder of Jesus’ love for us.”
And the love we experience here brings us to the places the Lord sends us to carry on his mission.
“May we ever be aware that he is here for us, and continues to be present with us,” said the bishop. “It is here in the Eucharist that we find our mission because it is here that we meet Jesus and are renewed in his love for each of us. We look up today to see the Lord ascend to his Father. But we look ahead as well, to see the mission he gives us, confident that, with him, we can love one another.”
While some ecclesiastical provinces have transferred the celebration of the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord to the Seventh Sunday of Easter, that is not the case in the province of Boston, of which the Diocese of Portland is a part. Here, the celebration remains on Thursday.
On Pentecost Sunday, May 20, Catholics will celebrate the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and the fullness of grace for the Church. During the days between the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord and the Solemnity of Pentecost, Catholics are called to intense prayer for the coming of the Holy Spirit.