YOU WILL BE MY WITNESSES – Ascension of the Lord, Year A

May 24, 2020

Revised Common Lectionary

Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47 or Psalm 93
Ephesians 1:15-23
Luke 24:44-53

Lectionary for Mass (RC)

Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9 (6)
Ephesians 1:17-23
Matthew 28:16-20

When asked to name a cherished Bible story or a favorite holy day, few people are likely to mention the Ascension.

Perhaps the relative lack of enthusiasm for today’s celebration is related to some vexing questions that spring to mind: Now that human beings have traveled to the moon and sent research missions deep into space, do we really think that Jesus was lifted from earth on a cloud? Even if the Ascension had a dramatic impact on those who witnessed it, what significance could it possibly hold for believers today?

The importance of the Ascension during the early centuries of the Christian church is reflected by its inclusion in all of the ancient creeds. The evangelist Luke clearly regarded the Ascension as significant as well. He uses this event to signal the turning point in the two-volume work that encompasses both his Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles, recounting it at the end of the former and at the beginning of the latter.

The mystery we celebrate today was for Luke the pivotal event for understanding the continuity between the mission of Jesus and the mission of the Christian community. On the one hand, from the vantage point of the Ascension, the Christian community can look back to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus to grasp the fullness of his life and mission. Because of the Ascension, we are summoned to a deeper awareness that the one who lived among us and died on the cross is the same one who is now exalted with God.

The story we hear today also helps us understand our own call. The disciples were encouraged to get their heads out of the clouds and instead to set their sight on the ends of the earth, where they were to give witness to Christ. Like those disciples, we are called to refocus our vision to see the world around us, to take up our commission to be his witnesses in every community and nation, in every time and situation.

Christ has equipped us for this mission by the power we have received in the gift of the Holy Spirit. The risen and ascended One is with us. Now let’s get to work!

A Hymn for Today “Go to the World!”

The conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel, which appears in the Roman Catholic Lectionary for today, does not explicitly mention the Ascension, but it does include Jesus’ promise to be with the community of disciples always and the great commission to teach and baptize. That Gospel passage provides the basis for this inspiring text by Sylvia G. Dunstan, FHS.

Go to the world! Go into all the earth.
Go preach the cross where Christ renews life’s worth,
Baptizing as the sign of our rebirth.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Go to the world! Go into ev’ry place.
Go live the Word of God’s redeeming grace.
Go seek God’s presence in each time and space.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Go to the world! Go struggle, bless and pray.
The nights of tears give way to joyous day.
As servant Church you follow Christ’s own way.
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Go to the world! Go as the ones I send,
For I am with you till the age shall end,
When all the hosts of glory cry “Amen!”
Alleluia! Alleluia!

Text: Sylvia G. Dunstan, 1955-1993, © 1991, GIA Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Image Credit: Ascension, Father Georges Saget, Senegal

“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.