Ordinary of the Mass
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This feast of the Ascension of our Lord must have left the Apostles with mixed emotions. They had been treated to the exhilaration of witnessing the truth of the Resurrection. The sorrows of Good Friday were turned into joy as they discovered the empty tomb, as He appeared to them in the Upper Room, and as he went about with them for those forty days. But then, on this particular Thursday, He was taken up out of their sight to be with them no more on this earth.
The Holy Ghost, a new advocate on earth had been promised, but not yet received. Quite likely, the indwelling of the Holy Ghost was one of those things which they did not fully understand as yet, and would not until they experienced it nine days later on Pentecost.
They had an awesome mission ahead of them-the one we read about in today’s Gospel. Even though they had been slow to believe in the Resurrection-in that they had not believed those who had seen Him after He had risen-they were tasked with bringing the good news of salvation to all of the nations. They were to go out into the world and preach to “every creature,” so that they might “believe and be baptized” rather than disbelieve and be condemned.
They had been promised-but had not yet seen-powers that would convince even the hard of heart-to cast out devils, to speak in new tongues, to heal the sick and make them well. These would be temporary gifts; lasting just enough to get the infant Church going before they were generally lost. The thought of all this must have been a mixture of exhilaration and fright.
Perhaps the most difficult realization for the Apostles was that Jesus would be with them no longer. They had walked with Him for roughly three years. He was always in the lead. He always knew what to say, and how to deal with those who challenged them. That guidance would be no longer.
Still, there was His presence in the Blessed Sacrament, which they would have whenever they renewed the one true Sacrifice of the Cross. And there was this promise of the Holy Ghost, not many days hence.
On this Thursday, the Apostles embarked upon the first novena. They would spend nine days in the Upper Room, and on Pentecost Sunday the Holy Ghost would come, and the Church would be born, and they would begin their work of making disciples of every creature. If we read a little further in the Acts of the Apostles than we did just now we will find the one thing that helped them to get through this first novena. We will find that, in spite of any mixture of emotions, they prayed with Mary, the Mother of God.
Likewise, should we spend our time in prayer. Whether we feel confident or fearful does not matter. Our prayers are always more focused and more effective when made together with Mary, the Queen of the Apostles-Mary, the Help of All Christians-Mary our Mother.