Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
I mentioned yesterday that the really
important feasts of the year are celebrated over a period of nine day—they
have a vigil, and are followed by seven days that make an octave. The
Ascension is certainly one of these feasts. Coming forty days after Easter
it is the culmination of our Lord's public life on earth. Our Lord offered
Himself in sacrifice for our sins on the Cross, conquered the death of sin
by His resurrection on the third day, and then spent forty days allowing
Himself to be seen by hundreds of people who would be able to testify to the
reality of His resurrection.
Then, finally, on this day He was taken up to the glory of heaven—the glory
that was naturally His in His divinity, and the glory that we might say was
added to His humanity.
The preface of the Mass during this octave
goes so far as to say that He “was lifted up into heaven, so that He might make
us partakers of His Godhead.”
Not that we would be made truly divine, but that the good and faithful would be
united with God, and experience His divine essence face to face in eternity.
This feast of the Ascension is thus a promise of our future glory—if we are
faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ and His Church.
And, in order that we might keep that Faith,
He promised to send them an Advocate, the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth.
“And while eating with them, He charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but
to wait for the promise of the Father, “of whom you have heard,” said He, “by My
mouth; for John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the
Holy Ghost not many days hence.””
Two Sundays later He sent the Holy Ghost to them—an event that we will
commemorate two Sundays from now on Pentecost—an event that is renewed us when
we receive the Sacrament of Confirmation.
In today's Gospel we heard about the miracles
that would be worked by the preachers of the Early Church—casting out devils,
handling deadly snakes, speaking in tongues, and healing the sick.
Intellectually we know that these things were special gifts, exercised by the
Apostles and the priests of the first century or so. When we hear about people
doing such things in modern times, we are rightfully critical, for these
charisms more or less vanished after the first century. For us, the snake
handlers, tongue speakers, and faith healers are the stuff of Sunday morning
Protestant theatrics on television. There are exceptions in the great saints,
of course: the Saint Anthonys, the Francis Xaviers and the Padre Pios of this
world who work genuine miracles—but they tend to be a rarity.
Interpreting this Gospel as it is addressed to
us is a bit more difficult. I came across an interesting interpretation by
Father Leonard Goffine, the 17th century Norbertine monk. Let me leave you with
his thoughts to ponder for yourselves. He says:
In a spiritual
manner all pious Catholics still work such miracles; for, as St. [John]
Chrysostom says, “They expel devils when they banish sin, which
is worse than the devil; They speak new tongues when they
converse no longer on vain and sinful things, but on those which are
spiritual and heavenly.” “They take up serpents,” says St.
Gregory, “when by zealous exhortations they lift others from the shame
of vice, without being themselves poisoned; They drink deadly
things without being hurt by them, when they hear improper conversation
without being corrupted or led to evil; They lay their hands
upon the sick and heal them, when they teach the ignorant, strengthen by
their good example those who are wavering in virtue, keep the sinner
from evil, and similar things.” Strive to do this upon all occasions, O
Christian, for God willingly gives you His grace and you will thus be of
more use to yourself and others, and honor God more than by working the