This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension. For some of the older members of the Church, you may remember that this Feast used to be celebrated on a Thursday and was a Holy Day of Obligation. This Feast of the Ascension falls 40 days after Easter (when counting both the day of Easter and the Thursday of Ascension), but has in more modern times been transferred to the following Sunday as it is no longer a Holy day of Obligation. It was possibly done so to make the solemnity of this feast celebrated more fully in churches and more fully by more people. From the USCCB website: “There are six metropolitan sees and their suffragan Dioceses which maintain the Solemnity of the Ascension on Thursday: Boston, Hartford, Newark, New York, Omaha, and Philadelphia. Every other region of the United States has opted to transfer the Solemnity to the following Sunday (the Seventh Sunday of Easter).” If you have Catholic friends in those parts of the nation, they will be hearing different readings today and will be celebrating the 7th Sunday of Easter. Of course, when it is transferred to a Sunday, while not a Holy Day of Obligation due to the Feast being celebrated, it is a day of obligation due to being celebrated on a Sunday, as every Sunday is an obligation day to attend Mass.
We’ve made it this far into the Easter season, still singing ‘Alleluias’ and learning about the Resurrection. Today in the Gospel we hear of the Ascension of Jesus after he spoke to his disciples – telling them to go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News. We sing of the Ascension in our opening song, ‘Hail the Day that Sees Him Rise’. This tune should be familiar as we sang it earlier in the season with different words, “Christ the Lord is Risen Today”. For the presentation of the gifts, a more contemporary song from 2003 is being sung, where we are invited to go to where He is, as He has prepared a place for us, and is waiting for us to join Him. The verses are pulled from solid Scripture passages from Christ’s ministry on earth that should guide us throughout the week. Our songs during the Eucharist continue to remind us of the true meaning of the sacrament, and to remember that He has ‘the words of everlasting life’. He is the one to follow, our Bread of life, our Saving Cup, our Risen One! We end the celebration singing “Go Make of All Disciples” We are sent out to proclaim His power and might, His love and care for us! Our actions are what are now needed – actions taking Christ out into the world. How are we going to do that this week?