Ascension (A)
May 18, 2023
Fr. John Colacino C.PP.S.



Gladden us with holy joys, almighty God,
and make us rejoice with devout thanksgiving,
for the Ascension of Christ your Son
is our exaltation,
and, where the Head has gone before in glory,
the Body is called to follow in hope.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (RM)

Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ
ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things:
Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his
promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end
of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and
reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory
everlasting. Amen.  (BCP) 

God of majesty,
you led the Messiah through suffering into risen life,
and took him up to the glory of heaven.
Clothe us with the power
promised from on high,
and send us forth to the ends of the earth
as heralds of repentance
and witnesses of Jesus Christ, firstborn from the dead,
who lives with you now and always in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
God forever and ever. Amen. (BCW)

First Reading Acts 1:1-11

 In the first book, Theophilus,
   I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
   until the day he was taken up,
   after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
   to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
   by many proofs after he had suffered,
   appearing to them during forty days
   and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with the them,
   he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
   but to wait for “the promise of the Father
   about which you have heard me speak;
   for John baptized with water,
   but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

When they had gathered together they asked him,
   “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons
   that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
   and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
   throughout Judea and Samaria,
   and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were looking on,
   he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
   suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
   why are you standing there looking at the sky?
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.”

 Responsorial Psalm


God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.

All you peoples, clap your hands, shout to God with cries of gladness,
for the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth.

God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.

For king of all the earth is God;
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations, God sits upon his holy throne.

Second Reading Ephesians 1:17-21

Brothers and sisters:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might,
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

Gospel Acclamation


Gospel Matthew 28:19,20

 The eleven disciples went to Galilee,
to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.
When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.
Then Jesus approached and said to them,
"All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

Reflection Questions

   How have you felt empowered by the Holy Spirit?

   How have the “eyes of your mind” been enlightened?

  What hesitations have you experienced when it comes to faith in Christ?

Catena Nova

THE sacred work of our salvation was of such value in the sight of the creator of the universe that he counted it worth the shedding of his own blood. After his passion weakness was turned into strength, mortality into eternal life, and disgrace into glory. At Easter the Lord’s resurrection was the cause of our joy, now it is his ascension into heaven. Having made careful provision for the preaching of the Gospel and the mysteries of the new covenant, our Lord Jesus Christ was taken up to heaven before the eyes of his disciples. His bodily presence among them came to an end, and so what was visible in our Redeemer has passed into the sacraments.. (Pope St. Leo the Great)

Now the mystery of Christ’s death is fulfilled, victory is won, and the Cross, the sign of triumph, is raised on high. He who gives us the noble gifts of life and a kingdom has ascended into heaven, leading captivity captive. Therefore the same command is repeated. Once more the gates of heaven must open for him. Our guardian angels, who have now become his escorts, order them to be flung wide so that he may enter and regain his former glory. But he is not recognized in the soiled garments of our life, in clothes reddened by the winepress of human sin. Again the escorting angels are asked: Who is this King of glory? The answer is no longer, The strong one, mighty in battle, but, The lord of hosts, he who has gained power over the whole universe, who has recapitulated all things in himself who is above all things, who has restored all creation to its former state: He is the King of glory (St. Gregory of Nyssa).

The withdrawal of Christ’s bodily presence from his disciples meant not only that the Holy Spirit would come to them, but that the Father and the Son would also dwell with them in a spiritual manner. Christ’s departure did not mean that the Holy Spirit would simply take his place. It meant rather that together with Christ the Spirit would make his home in the hearts of the disciples. If this were not so, what would become of our Lord’s promise to be with his disciples always, to the end of time? And what of that other saying of his, The Father and I will come to him and make our home with him? The fact is that our Lord promised to send the Holy Spirit in such a way that he himself would always remain with his disciples. And when through the coming of the Spirit their purely natural and human affections had become spiritualized, then they would be capable of the indwelling of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (St. Augustine).

As the reason for his departure, our Lord mentioned his desire to open the way for our ascent to the heavenly places and to prepare a safe passage for us by making smooth the road that had previously been impassable. For heaven was then completely inaccessible to us – human foot had never trodden that pure and holy country of the angels. It was Christ who first prepared the way for our ascent there. By offering himself to God the Father as the first fruits of all who are dead and buried, he gave us a way of entry into heaven and was himself the first man the inhabitants of heaven ever saw…. And so our Lord Jesus Christ has opened up for us a new and living way, as Paul says, not by entering a sanctuary made with hands, but by entering heaven itself to appear before God on our behalf…. And he has done this on our account and in our name, so that being like us, though with his power as the Son, and hearing the command, Sit at my right hand, as a member of our race, he might transmit to all of us the glory of being children of God (St. Cyril of Alexandria).

Let us not suppose that God the Holy Spirit comes in such sense that God the Son remains away. No; he has not so come that Christ does not come, but rather he comes that Christ may come in his coming. Through the Holy Spirit we have communion with Father and Son. In Christ we are built together, says St Paul, for a dwelling place of God through the Spirit. You are the temple of God, the Spirit of God dwells in you. Thus the Holy Spirit does not take the place of Christ in the soul, but secures that place for Christ. St Paul insists much on this presence of Christ in those who have his Spirit. Do you not know, he says, that your bodies are the members of Christ? By one Spirit we are all baptized one body... you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it?  The Holy Spirit, then, vouchsafes to come to us, that by his coming Christ may come to us, not carnally or visibly, but may enter into us. And thus he is both present and absent, absent in that he has left the earth, present in that he has not left the faithful soul; or, as he says himself: The world sees me no more, but you see me (St. John Henry Newman).

It is not as if the Church were looking up and beyond herself to someone who is separated form her. No, her longing for the one who is to come rather turns her vision inward to what is already present for her. She looks inside and finds there Christ who has his rulership in heaven, but as the head and life of his body is united to his members on earth. In his face she seeks and finds what belongs to her….If you long for the glorified Lord you must go to his ecclesia. She shows the world the face of Christ in glory: her head, her life. It is true that his glory is still veiled; only those who believe and belong to him recognize his face. And all the while they seek and find him, turning to his near presence within, they are waiting for his final revelation before the whole world. The seeking, therefore, of which the Church sings today, is of what she possesses and what she hopes for. It is no visionary look into what is uncertain and far away, no barren sighing of a weak and sentimental kind, but an abiding and passionately-sought sharing of life with Christ who is present, and certain expectation of Christ to come which is a source of strength as well (Sr. Aemiliana Löhr).  

Once we grasp that “heaven and earth” mean what they mean in the Bible, and that “heaven” is not, repeat not, a location within our own cosmos of space, time and matter, situated somewhere up in the sky (“up” from whose point of view? Europe? Brazil? Australia?), then we are ready, or as ready as we are likely to be, to understand the ascension, described here quite simply and briefly by Luke. Neither Luke nor the other early Christians thought Jesus had suddenly become a primitive spaceman, heading off into orbit or beyond, so that if you searched throughout the far reaches of what we call “space” you would eventually find him. They believed that “heaven” and “earth” are the two interlocking spheres of God’s reality, and that the risen body of Jesus is the first (and so far the only) object which is fully at home in both and hence in either, anticipating the time when everything will be renewed and joined together. And so, since as T. S. Eliot said, “humankind cannot bear very much reality,” the new, overwhelming reality of a heaven-and-earth creature will not just yet live in both dimensions together, but will make itself “himself” at home within the “heavenly” dimension for the moment, until the time comes for heaven and earth to be finally renewed and united. At that point, of course, this renewed Jesus himself will be the central figure.   (N.T. Wright).


From Both Sides Now

            “I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now, from up and down, and still somehow it’s cloud illusions I recall. I really don’t know clouds at all.”  Judy Collins sang those words.  Joni Mitchell wrote them.  I imagine the disciples felt like singing them too when, ten days before Pentecost, they saw a cloud envelop the Lord Jesus as he ascended into heaven.

            Oh sure, it was a cloud like the one that signaled God’s presence at key moments in the history of Israel: like when God appeared to Moses on Mt. Sinai and a thick cloud descended on the mountain (Ex. 19:16).  Later, when Moses entered the meeting tent, where the Ark of the Covenant was housed, a cloud also descended; and, yes, when the Ark was enshrined in the Holy of Holies inside the Temple built by Solomon--a cloud descended there too (cf. Ex. 24:15, 33:9; 1 Kgs. 8:10-11).

            In all these cases, a cloud symbolized the presence of God.  And the people acknowledged the Lord’s glory that came upon mountain and tent, ark and temple, by acts of homage.  Hence, Jesus’ disciples, when they saw him. . .worshipped him (G) on the mount of ascension, showing they believed him to be the new point of encounter­ with the Deity; his flesh the new Tabernacle filled with God’s presence.

            But Matthew adds, in the very same sentence, how some doubted too (G).  Like Joni Mitchell, it was “cloud illusions” they recalled.  At the very same time they saw, “Bows and flows of angel hair and ice cream castles in the air and feather canyons everywhere.”  They really didn’t know clouds at all.

            Nevertheless, some began to realize this cloud meant even more: that the divine presence was not limited to Jesus’ glorified body.  Before long, the bodies of Christ’s faithful were called “temples of the Holy Spirit” too, and their collective reality--the church—the “body of Christ” (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19, 12:12), indeed, the fullness of him who fills all things (II).  So the glorifica­tion of Christ is something, some saw, we all share.  They began to see, in other words, clouds from both sides now,  from “up” and “down.”

            In one passage more daring than the other, the authors of the Christian Scriptures portrayed this belief.  Take Paul who said all of us. . .are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory (2 Cor. 3:18).  Or John who said, From his fullness we have all received, grace in place of grace (Jn. 1:16).  And Peter climbed the heights by saying, through God’s own glory and power, we may come to share in the divine nature (cf. 2 Pt. 1:3-4).  As Judy Collins might say, “Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels, the dizzy dancing way you feel as every fairy tale comes real.”  They knew clouds, all right: Peter, Paul, and --  John.  You thought I was going to say “Mary!”

            All this is what the Greek church goes so far to call our “deification”: summed up by Clement of Alexandria who said, “the Word of God became human in order that we might learn from humanity how to become God.”  All of which fulfills the prophecy of Joel who heard the Lord say: I will pour out my spirit on all flesh . . . . Even on the male and female slaves, in those days, I will pour out my spirit (Jl. 2:28-29).

            But some, at least, continued to doubt.  Doubting whether certain people long-thought unclean could really share Christ’s divinity.  And so the first crisis to divide the church was faced: Whether Gen­tiles could share in the glory of the Lord or not; and if so, did they have to become Jews as well?

            It’s hard to imagine the impact of such questions on those who thought they alone could be “chosen people.”  It required a whole new way of looking at people considered out of the camp (Ex. 19:17).  But when those like Paul (who looked at clouds from both sides now), when Paul, who stood for unqualified acceptance of the “other,” triumphed over those like James (who didn’t really “know clouds at all”), insisting the “other” become like “us” first, then was the universal church born.

            Hence, the barrier of hostility was broken down; and those once far off became near by the blood of Christ (cf. Ep. 2:13-14) -- the very same blood Hebrews tells us was shed outside the camp (Hb. 13:12):  in precisely the place where Moses brought the people to meet God (Ex. 19:17).  So from both sides now, inside and outside the camp, God dwells.

            And that’s how we should look at clouds: from “both sides now.”  From the side of God, surely, who fills the Christ with Holy Spirit; and the Eucharist too, where Jesus’ body and blood, under the “cloud” of bread and wine, is now the sign of divine presence.  But from our side as well, filled with the Holy Spirit in confirmation, true tabernacles and temples of God.  No doubt about it: unless “cloud illusions” get in the way, that “block the sun.”  And we’ll never know clouds at all.


For the grace of discipleship: that through the words of Jesus and the example of the early disciples we may discover who we are as disciples of Jesus and help others to come to know the risen Lord.

For all who spread the Good News: for evangelists, missionaries, preachers, composers, and writers: that God will inspire them to dynamically announce God’s abiding presence and untiring love for all.

For the grace of conversion: that we may strive to bring the brokenness, injustice, addictions, and selfishness of our society under the saving and redeeming reign of Christ.

For a healing of racism: that all nations and peoples may recognize the value and dignity that God has given each person and that they may work together to bring forth the reign of God in the world.

For all experiencing persecution: that they will draw strength from the victory of Christ and hold fast to the hopes planted in their hearts.

For all who feel alone and isolated: that God will console them, let them experience God’s presence in their homes, and help others to connected with them to maintain the community spirit.

For peace throughout the world: that God will turn the hearts of world leaders from violence toward co-operation in facing the challenges that confront all the human race.

For all who are grieving: that Christ will dry their tears and give them peace as they experience the death of a loved one or loss of a relationship.

God of majesty,
yours is the power that raised Christ from death,
yours the glory that exalted him to your right hand.
By the mystery of the ascension,
sustain our hope
as we bear witness to our baptism.
By the perpetual outpouring of your Spirit,
confirm your Church
in its mission of salvation.

Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen. (ICEL; 1998)

Offertory Chant

Communion Chant


Closing Hymn