The Ascension of the Lord marks a turning point in the life of the early Church. It signifies the transition which takes place when the Lord leaves His disciples, but with the promise of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus leaves, but He does not leave them alone. He is still present with us today, especially in the Blessed Sacrament. And the Holy Spirit continues to strengthen His Church. Several years ago the Bishops of the Dioceses of Wisconsin (with the permission of Rome) moved the observance of the Lord’s Ascension from the 40th day after Easter (always a Thursday) to the Sunday following. This was a concession to the secular commercial and business practices which make it difficult for many Catholics to attend Mass on a Thursday. On this Solemnity the Church celebrates that event in the life of the early Church when they witnessed the Lord’s return to His Father forty days after His resurrection. With the Father, the risen (and now ascended) Lord promised to send the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and the Church. Liturgically, this time from the Lord’s ascension until the feast of Pentecost is a time for us to pray more earnestly for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Indeed, the nine days between the Ascension and Pentecost provide the model for our Catholic practice of a Novena (from the Latin word for nine), in which prayers are offered over a period of nine days for a particular intention.
Next Sunday the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the Blessed Mother, the Apostles, and the disciples of the Lord. To help us observe the coming of the “Fire of the Holy Spirit”, I invite everyone to wear something red to Mass next Sunday.
May God bless you!