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Contents: Volume 2 - ASCENSION or EASTER 7 - C
May 26 or 29, 2022

 

  2022

EASTER

VII

(C)

 

1. -- Lanie LeBlanc OP

2. -- Carol & Dennis Keller

3. -- Brian Gleeson CP

4. --

5. --(Your reflection can be here!)

 

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The Ascension 2022

One of the key points in this day's readings is "the promise of the Father." The Father is all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful. We can count on, bet on, rely on, and yes, build our lives on the promises (plural) of the Father.

In the Gospel today, Jesus tells the apostles about the greatest promise, the Gift of the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit, soon to come again in this liturgical year upon us, with the booster shot of hope we all need right about now. It is indeed the Holy Spirit who fulfills all those promises!

My family has education-based connections to our parish, its school, a nearby university, and their related school-year cycles. "How many days until school is out???" reverberates in our every thought it seems! We are worn out, but it is not yet time for the "down time" we all need.

In the reading from Ephesians, we hear/read: "May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call..." We, and it seems, many people in the world, need the light of hope to pour forth into and from our hearts! Jesus's Ascension to the Father unleashed that hope anew in the Holy Spirit. That hope does indeed make adhering to the call we have as Christians and as people of good faith, possible, even if our call is not easy.

The apostles juggled their feelings of Jesus's leaving them with this amazing promise of the Holy Spirit. We do a similar juggling act with our lives and our blessed assurance. After Jesus ascended to heaven, the apostles returned to Jerusalem "with great joy". Will we be able to muster "great joy" in today's world? Sometimes I wonder that about myself, so I recently have begun to wear a necklace that says "Defiant Joy". Been some tough weeks. Come, Holy Spirit!

Blessings,

Dr. Lanie LeBlanc OP

Southern Dominican Laity

lanie@leblanc.one

 

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ASCENSION & 7th SUNDAY OF EASTER

The Ascension of the Lord May 26 2022

(may be celebrated on May 29 in place of 7th Sunday of Easter)

Acts 1:1-11; Responsorial Psalm 47; Ephesians 1:17-23; Gospel Acclamation 28:19/20; Luke 24:46-53

This going away – albeit to heaven – is a loss for these disciples. They had come to depend on Jesus to keep them headed in a good direction. When one loses a loved one, there ensues a panic – what do I do now? How can I get along without? There is a disquieting desperation resulting from a sudden absence, a sudden aloneness. In the years of walking around with Jesus, thinking they had him figured out they came to the thought of his leaving with that panic. Should they just consider this experience the highlight of their lives and go home and once again go fishing? The experience of Jesus had lifted them up, made them more than they believed themselves to be. No longer fishermen tied to the sea. He had changed their horizons to all of Galilee, Samaria, and Judea. Well even beyond that – it seems Jesus wanted them to be known in the entire world. Going back would be a huge let-down.

These disciples had witnessed the unthinkable. It had been even more than miracles during the wandering through Galilee, Samaria, and Judea. His preaching stirred people’s hearts. Some of them even seemed to change how they lived. They had been there when he was arrested and dragged from trial to trial – all of them with witnesses who fabricated multiple stories contradicting each other. They knew such was the way of those who worshipped power and wealth. Lies paved such persons’ road to glory. They must have been scared out of their wits during the trials, the beatings and mockery, the way to Golgotha, and his death and burial. Would they be next? What utter terror they must have experienced when he suddenly appeared. That surprise must have chilled them to the bone – were they seeing a ghost. What terrors would this ghost visit on them? Then that strange greeting: "Be not afraid. Peace be with you!" What on earth? After all Jesus had been put through, he spoke of peace? Where was the indignation, the anger, the getting even with violence of equal worth or more?

And now, forty days of visiting with them, telling them how to understand, revealing to them how his message, his presence, and his and the Father’s immense love for them would never leave them. That there was more yet to come. That unrevealed more would tickle their imaginations, open their secular, consumer, power hungry hearts to all that he had done and taught. These disciples would need a seismic change of heart and mind. It is difficult to get through the defenses of hard hearts and stiff necks, pride, arrogance, and hubris!

And so, there comes that recurring question: "Is now when you are going to establish the Kingdom?" Talk about being dense! What is wrong with these people? They just do not get it. If we think about their question, we discover something that truly applies to each of us in our practice of faith. They were expecting Jesus to do the heavy lifting that would bring about the Kingdom. He was going to get it done for them and they would take their places in the kingdom as those who had first followed him. Jesus, however, just pushes aside their anticipation of an easy way. It is not for them to know when it will come to fruition. Theirs would be work. Theirs was the difficult process of lifting hearts and minds and wills of all nations to understand their own worth, their own calling, their necessary practice at becoming what they could be. They had to study, to reflect, to analyze to understand again the message that was first of all his words but more revealing, his works including the dying AND the rising. Even then they would need help from God by God and leading to God. That help is the Spirit that we, in our time, celebrate by remember coming just ten days after Jesus leaves for home.

From Bethlehem to Bethany was a long road. Most of it was quiet, not earth shaking. Just a carpenter making chairs and tables, and farming tools and yokes for oxen. You know, yokes were custom made to fit each person – oops, each ox. It was quiet, that childhood, that adolescence, that young adulthood. The human nature of this Jesus had to get up to speed to begin the work he was sent to accomplish.

Does any of this apply to us, individually or collectively? Absolutely. Can we not imagine ourselves there on the hill in Bethany or, in other accounts, in Galilee looking at Jesus disappearing into a bank of snow-white clouds? Do we stand there looking up as did the disciples with our mouths gaping, wondering at how Jesus pulled off this ascension? Then come the two messengers, those two angels. Why do you stand here looking up? Get with it. Start living what Jesus taught and demonstrated for you. There are many forces that would capture and enslave the spirits of mankind. It is for you to uncover the evil that capture so many. You are to free them from those forces – you are to cleanse the temples that are their spirits. For their spirits are the very image and likeness of their Creator. Commonly those spirits are known as souls.

As we celebrate this 40th day of Jesus Resurrection, we receive our marching papers. This is not, as we often hear, a war. It is gentler than that, it is more kind than any war. Actually, it is the antithesis of violent war. God gives the gift of faith to all whose hearts can bear it. It is for each of us to practice that faith so it grows and flowers and can be harvested when our life completes its course. In that practice, repentance, reconciliation, and peace and justice are possible. We preach by how we live. We exhort by how we love – love even our enemies, even those who choose to harm us for their own purposes.

To the worldly wise, this is foolishness. To those whose addiction is power, this seems like begging to be victims. To the wealthy this is a gilded invitation to steal from those who love and care about others. But to the Christian, this is a way of life that takes a lot of practice. Actually, it takes every-day practice. None of us get it right from the beginning of our journey laced with faith. Each learns by remembering the Scriptures’ description of God’s interventions and applying those memories to the moments of our living. Gradually, every so painfully, slowly we change. And our Spirits grow and becoming the shining lights that illumine the way for others.

So, when will the Kingdom be established? It is already present. We need to get on the train that moves us forward, the train that runs on Love of God and Love of neighbor. That energy transfers into our engines, our hearts, and transforms the moments of our living and lifts up every relationship. That power reflects and emulates the love of God for us. Pretty simple, riding on that train! Just awfully difficult when we begin the effort to love as God loves. Getting on the train takes a change of heart – often called repentance. It is not the way of the world; it is not how humanity expects to get along. But there it is success of a different color and nature. Just need to stop looking at the sky, hoping for an easy with no sweat, no strain, no searching. We are to get going and not stand with our mouths agape. Time to get moving, get started; jump on that fast-moving train. What a ride that is! What a fullness and wonderful life it turns out to be. As we draw our last breath, the rear-view mirror discloses a wonderful life!


Seventh Sunday of Easter May 29 2022

Acts 7:55-60; Responsorial Psalm 97; Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17 & 20; Gospel Acclamation John 14:18; John 17:20-26

In our country and in many parts of the world, these readings are suppressed in favor of the celebration of the Ascension. The feast of the Ascension is of more importance. It is difficult in our high-speed world for People to make time to come to the community for celebration on a Thursday. So, we suppress the readings for the seventh Sunday of Easter in favor of those of the Ascension. Still, those readings are worthy of a long look and reflection.

These readings collectively are sort of a goodbye by Jesus to the disciples. The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles is a word of warning to Christians. Those who believe, act in concert with that belief, and who tell others about it in word or deed or both, are likely to be persecuted. Stephen was stoned to death and in his dying, he prayed Jesus to forgive the stone throwers. That seems so silly – to bless those who are killing you! Yet it is responding with love to those who treat us badly, hurt us, or steal from us what we need for self and family. That is Jesus’ message to his followers by his words and by his words. How does anyone have the strength of character to behave in that way? Typically, we devise retorts, physical violence, or character assassinations of offenders. It takes a lot of practice of faith to reach such strength of character.

The second reading puts the persecution in a different light. The death of Stephen is a persecution that is repeated throughout all centuries since Jesus ascended into heaven. Even in our day, around the world there are hundreds of martyrs who give their lives for the truth of the gospels. Especially in countries struggling to lift themselves up, there are hundreds of people of faith and of ministry who stand up for the lives of the poor. Archbishop Oscar Romero was executed by the government while saying mass because of his support for the poor. Sister Dorothy Stang (born in Dayton, Ohio) was shot six times by thugs in the employ of ranchers in Brazil. They saw Sister Dorothy as an obstacle to their disenfranchisement of the poor, the plundering of their land, and the abolishment of the cultures of the natives of the Amazon valley. There are many more such martyrs, in the Balkans, in Africa, in the Middle East, in Ukraine, and even in our own country. Persecution continues. But as the second reading from Revelation tells us, those who practice the faith in their relationships and in their time and place will be rewarded. The prayer of those who practice the faith, whether in safe situations or in situations of threats, are those who pray that prayer of the early Church "Come, Lord Jesus, come."

The gospel seems out of place. It is the prayer of Jesus at his last meal with the apostles in John’s gospel. At its root, it is a prayer for unity, for becoming one. That is one of the characteristics of a vibrant and healthy Church. Actually, that is the effect of the Eucharist. We bring to the table what we do and what we are. The Spirit transforms that into the Body and the Blood of the Lord. All those little and large gifts of every person in the assembly contributes to the "bread and wine" that is transformed. Then we are gifted with those transformed gifts. All that we do in secular living and in faith is enriched and becomes the Lord. We then receive the Lord and are made one. That is the reason some of us continue standing as we return to our pews after receiving. It is a sign to all that we are one. We wait till all have received to demonstrate that oneness. The Church is above all a community of people who practice faith in the Lord and the Lord’s message and deeds. It is relevant that we should remember that every miracle of Jesus’ public ministry was about returning those rejected by society to full participation in the community that was the faith community of those who are called together. All were fed to make them one, as in why we celebrate the Eucharist. "That they may be one, as the Father and I are one. The love with which the Father loved Me, that it may be in them and I in them." The community that is our parish, our diocese, our Church is more than an institution. It is about a community of persons who love one another as the Father loves the Son. That is a very, very, very tall order. That is ultimately what is the Kingdom of God/Heaven. That is where there is no more weeping, no mourning, and death is no more. That is where we love each other enough to die for them, to educate, to bring to health, to encourage, to respect and lift up their dignity and worth as truly indicative of God’s creative wonders.

May it be so.

Dennis Keller dkeller002@nc.rr.com

 

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MAKING SENSE OF THE ASCENSION OF JESUS

Acts 1:1-11; Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:19-23; Luke 24:46-53

In our Creed today we will be saying of Jesus: 'He ascended into heaven.’ What picture comes to mind when we think of Jesus ascending into heaven? Do we picture him going far away to outer space like a spaceship at Cape Canaveral? If we do, we show that we don't realize that the words of scripture about this are not to be taken literally. They are a poetic way of saying that Jesus is no longer on earth in a fleshly, physical and material way. The words of scripture mean that he has gone to God in his risen body and lives with God in light and glory. What they mean is that God who raised him from the dead has therefore affirmed, honoured and exalted him.

Does his being with God mean he is no longer with us? No! He is with us more strongly, more powerfully than when he walked the lanes, streets, and roads, of Palestine. He is present to us in spirit, i.e., in his gift to us of the Holy Spirit, his other-self. He acts on us in all the ways the Spirit influences us.

So we don't go looking for him on the clouds or in the sky but in all the down-to-earth ways in which he told us we would find him? We find him in our reading, hearing and heeding of the scriptures, which speak of him. We find him in our celebration of the sacraments. Each of the seven sacraments is a sign of his presence and action. This is especially true of the Eucharist, which is specifically the sign and presence to us of his now glorified and spiritualized body. We find him in our concern and care for our neighbours, and especially for our fellow human beings who are poor, neglected, sad, sorrowing, confused, afraid, or despairing.

But if Jesus is no longer visible in the old familiar ways, how will people come to know of his presence? The answer is that he wants to make himself present through his disciples. So, on this Feast of the Ascension, we also remember the mission he gave his followers, you and me included before he went home to God. This is to go and tell everyone everywhere the good news that Jesus is alive, and that he is our Saviour, the one who changes people for the better through his gift of the Holy Spirit. So, before he disappears he says to his followers of every century, including our 21st:" You are my witnesses," and that to witness to him, we will be "clothed with the power from on high," the power that is the Holy Spirit.

On the subject of witnessing, it’s worth remembering that Pope Paul VI said that "the world needs witnesses more than it needs teachers." In fact, the world is full of both true and false teachers but has far fewer witnesses, i.e., people who speak with their lives. Between the two roles, there is the same difference that exists between saying and doing. A well-known proverb underlines this difference: "Actions speak louder than words," more recently put by the rappers as, "Walk the walk, not just talk the talk."

Being witnesses to Jesus is a very important role for parents of children, especially when they are asked to help with the teaching of their children getting ready for First Reconciliation, First Holy Communion, and Confirmation. The words which parents say about meeting Jesus and belonging to the Church in each of these steps will mean nothing if the parents don’t practice what they preach. What will the children think if their parents don’t go to Mass on Sunday, don’t ever make the sign of the cross with them, and don’t ever pray with them? The souls of children are like sheets of photographic film. Everything they see and hear in their childhood years leaves a trace, an imprint. One day the "film" will be "developed" and it will have its effects, good or bad.

So, in summary, in ascending to heaven, Jesus has not left us. He has merely disappeared from our sight. This is similar to what happens in the Eucharist. So long as the host is outside us, we see it, we adore it. After receiving the host that is Jesus, we no longer see it. It has disappeared, but it has disappeared so that Jesus can be within us, and so that he can be present to us in a new and even more powerful way than when he walked our earth in the flesh. So, like the first disciples, we are not sad that Jesus has disappeared but glad, because he is still with us and still loving us in so many ways.

At our Eucharist today, then, let’s make a point of thanking God with joy, that Jesus is not only risen and exalted into glory with God but that he is also still with us, in many powerful and loving ways, through his gift of his Spirit, his alter ego, his second self!

"Brian Gleeson CP" <bgleesoncp@gmail.com>

 

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Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections, and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the preaching you hear. Send them to preacherexchange@att.net.  Deadline is Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.

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