In some countries, the Ascension is celebrated on the Seventh Sunday of Easter. For an outline for the readings for the Ascension (Lectionary 58) click here. This outline is based on the Seventh Sunday readings for Year C.
Central idea: Communion. Doctrine: Our communion is in Christ. Practical application: Participation in Christ’s communion.
To view Lectionary 61, click here.
Central idea: Communion
Reading 1 Acts 7:55-60
Stephen, filled with the Holy Spirit,
looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God
and Jesus standing at the right hand of God,
and Stephen said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened
and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
But they cried out in a loud voice,
covered their ears, and rushed upon him together.
They threw him out of the city, and began to stone him.
The witnesses laid down their cloaks
at the feet of a young man named Saul.
As they were stoning Stephen, he called out,
“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
Then he fell to his knees and cried out in a loud voice,
“Lord, do not hold this sin against them;”
and when he said this, he fell asleep.
- In the Nicene Creed, we profess about Christ Our Lord that “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”
- Our Lord had said to the Sanhedrin, “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power” (Mk 14:62).
- When Stephen is about to be stoned to death by zealous Jews, he proclaims, “Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
- When he is about to expire, Stephen humbly requests, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
- And having learned well what Jesus taught by his life and by his words, Stephen witnessed the teaching in the Lord’s prayer, “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us,” when he prayed, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” He learned this also from the example of his Lord who said on the Cross: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Lk 23:34).
- Stephen and Christ united Stephen’s death with Christ’s death. Stephen was in communion or fellowship or friendship with Christ in his final earthly moments.
Responsorial Psalm Ps 97:1-2, 6-7, 9
R. The Lord is king, the most high over all the earth or Alleluia
The LORD is king; let the earth rejoice;
let the many islands be glad.
Justice and judgment are the foundation of his throne.
The heavens proclaim his justice,
and all peoples see his glory.
All gods are prostrate before him.
You, O LORD, are the Most High over all the earth,
exalted far above all gods.
- This psalm is an image of what we proclaim about Christ in the Nicene Creed:
He ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead
and his kingdom will have no end.
- Jesus Christ fulfills God’s covenant promises through King David: He is the universal, eternal king of all creation.
Reading 2 Rev 22:12-14, 16-17, 20
I, John, heard a voice saying to me:
“Behold, I am coming soon.
I bring with me the recompense I will give to each
according to his deeds.
I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last,
the beginning and the end.”
Blessed are they who wash their robes
so as to have the right to the tree of life
and enter the city through its gates.
“I, Jesus, sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.
I am the root and offspring of David,
the bright morning star.”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
Let the hearer say, “Come.”
Let the one who thirsts come forward,
and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water.
The one who gives this testimony says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!
- Christ came to us on earth through his humble Incarnation and will return to us through his glorious Second Coming so that we can have what he has: eternal life and happiness. Through faith, eternal life begins in us now. Heaven, which is being with the Lord, is eternal life.
- As the Nicene Creed says, Christ will “judge the living and the dead.” What follows judgment is the “recompense” of that judgment according to our deeds. For as the author of Hebrews wrote: “he rewards those who seek him” (Heb 11:6). This reward for those who have done good is “the gift of life-giving water” that will satisfy our thirst for God which is also our thirst for life, love, fellowship, happiness, goodness, truth, beauty, and home.
- Christ wants this reward for everyone. As the Vatican II pastoral constitution Gaudium et spes puts it, “All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery” (§ 22).
Gospel Jn 17:20-26
Lifting up his eyes to heaven, Jesus prayed saying:
“Holy Father, I pray not only for them,
but also for those who will believe in me through their word,
so that they may all be one,
as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
that they also may be in us,
that the world may believe that you sent me.
And I have given them the glory you gave me,
so that they may be one, as we are one,
I in them and you in me,
that they may be brought to perfection as one,
that the world may know that you sent me,
and that you loved them even as you loved me.
Father, they are your gift to me.
I wish that where I am they also may be with me,
that they may see my glory that you gave me,
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Righteous Father, the world also does not know you,
but I know you, and they know that you sent me.
I made known to them your name and I will make it known,
that the love with which you loved me
may be in them and I in them.”
- Jesus offers a most intimate prayer to God his Father.
- He prays it aloud to share it with his apostles.
- The prayer is made on behalf of them and those who will believe in him through them—so it is a prayer on our behalf, too.
- Our Lord testifies that the world neither knows the Father nor believes the Father sent him into the world. But the world will be able to know and believe if they see evidence. This evidence will be if Christ’s followers are one with each other and with him in the way that he is one with the Father.
- What exactly is this oneness?
- Jesus’ prayer is that we be united with each other and him in that way that he and his Father are united.
- From all eternity, the Father sees the divine essence of the Son and so gives the Son his entire self—he loves and glorifies the Son.
- In created time, the Father sees in the Son’s incarnate human nature every bit of good a human being is capable of, and so loves and glorifies the Son in his humanity, too.
- Similarly, from all eternity the only begotten Son loves and glorifies his Father with everything a divine person is capable of—that means infinitely—and gives his entire self to him.
- And temporally, in his human nature, Our Lord loves and glorifies his Father with everything a human being is capable of and gives himself entirely to him.
- Through Christ we can share in this divine and human giving and receiving of love and glory.
- Is a participation in this exchange of love enough for us? Yes. There are many goods in creation but the source of every one of them is God. God makes every being as some reflection of the good that he is in himself.
- This is why Our Lord Jesus Christ not only reveals divine truths to fallen mankind, he is what God wants to reveal: Who God really is and how God really wants man to be. Christ does this through his divinity and his humanity.
- The term for this unity of love and highest esteem is communion, a togetherness, unity, association, participation. The Father and Son are in communion. The Son wants us to be in communion with him and the Father. He wants us to be in communion with one another. And this will lead to others wanting this same communion.
Doctrine: Our communion is in Christ
- The key to this desired communion or togetherness is Christ. “Christ enables us to live in him all that he himself lived, and he lives it in us” (CCC 521).
- “By his Incarnation, he, the Son of God, has in a certain way united himself with each man” (Gaudium et spes 22 § 2, quoted in CCC 521).
- “We are called . . . to become one with him, for he enables us as the members of his Body to share in what he lived for us in his flesh as our model” (CCC 521).
- So Christ participated in our human mystery and we, too, can participate in his divine/human mystery. What this means can be understood better by looking at Gaudium et spes 22 in depth.
- “Christ has risen, destroying death by His death; He has lavished life upon us so that, as sons in the Son, we can cry out in the Spirit: Abba, Father” (GS 22).
- The mystery of man in Adam, the first man, can only be understood in Christ, the final Adam. Christ, “by the revelation of the mystery of the Father and His love, fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear” (GS 22).
- Christ reveals both the nature and the vocation of man.
- Christ, “Who is ‘the image of the invisible God’ (Col. 1:15), is Himself the perfect man” (GS 22).
- To us, “the sons of Adam He restores the divine likeness which had been disfigured from the first sin onward” (GS 22).
- Christ has not annulled human nature but raised it “up to a divine dignity” (GS 22).
- “[B]y His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man” (GS 22).
- To explain this unity with humanity, the Council Fathers give this example: “He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart . . . [and was] like us in all things except sin” (GS 22).
- Christ can reach man and man can reach Christ through anything authentically human.
- By suffering for us to merit life for us and to reconcile us to God, “He not only provided us with an example for our imitation, He blazed a trail, and if we follow it, life and death are made holy and take on a new meaning” (GS 22).
- Christ has even (or especially) transformed suffering and death into means of holiness.
- Conformed to the likeness of the Son, through the Holy Spirit, “The Christian man . . . becomes capable of discharging the new law of love” and the whole man is renewed from within, even to the achievement of ‘the redemption of the body’ (Rom. 8:23)” (GS 22).
- We are made capable of loving one another with the same love that the divine persons exchange among themselves and offer to us.
- Living this love, the love by which God loves, we are renewed, becoming what we were meant to be: adopted children of God who will live forever.
- However, this also means “the need and the duty to battle against evil through manifold tribulations and even to suffer death” (GS 22).
- This life is a battlefield and we now fight on the same side as Our Lord.
- “All this holds true not only for Christians, but for all men of good will in whose hearts grace works in an unseen way. For, since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate vocation of man is in fact one, and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.”
- Recall that Christ has united himself in some way to every man.
- We want every man to know this and to freely join in.
- This fulfills Our Lords prayer “that the world may believe” through us.
Practical application: Participation in Christ’s communion
- St. John Eudes advises, “We must continue to accomplish in ourselves the stages of Jesus’ life and his mysteries and often to beg him to perfect and realize them in us and in his whole Church. . . . For it is the plan of the Son of God to make us and the whole Church partake in his mysteries and to extend them to and continue them in us and in his whole Church. This is his plan for fulfilling his mysteries in us.” (quoted in CCC 521)
- Christ, perfect God and perfect man, wants to be united with us so we can be united with him, with all the rest of humanity—especially his followers—and with his Father.
- He wants this to happen in and through our normal human lives. Recall, “He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart . . . [and was] like us in all things except sin” (GS 22).
- This means in everything except our sins. This means all our bodily, intellectual, and moral activities. It includes the battle against evil, our suffering, even our death.
- Not that human acts split up into separate categories. It is the whole person—the “rational animal,” mind and body—who eats, sleeps, prays, works, plays, pursues goods, loves, struggles against sins, and suffers.
- United to Christ already in Baptism and strengthened and renewed by the other sacraments, we have in Christ, an intimate companion, co-actor, and guide. Now, God’s adopted but real son or daughter lives this renewed human life along with and with the essential help of the Divine Son.
- Doesn’t this call for a deep interior life that includes
- questions like, “Lord, what should we do today (because I want to do what you want)?” and “What should we do about that (because I want to do what you want)?” and
- requests like “Help me to do what we want (because I want what you want)” and “Why do I keep forgetting you are here?” and
- statements like “Thank you,” and “I’m sorry,” and “I love you”?
Written as an aid for homilists and a resource for the faithful, this doctrinal homily outline (1) provides insights into the Lectionary readings, (2) explicates a doctrine of Catholic Faith or morals from them, and (3) shows specific ways lay persons can live these truths. (To read more about this approach, click here.)
This outline is written to be in accord with the Homiletic Directory issued by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (2014). (To read an excellent summary of the Homiletic Directory, click here.)