In the traditional Catholic Church the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus is called Ascension Thursday…it always falls on the 40th day after Easter. It is one of the great solemnities in the Christian Liturgical calendar. It commemorates the bodily ascension of Jesus into Heaven. Up until recently, it was celebrated throughout the world on Thursday…it was a Holy Day of Obligation...but something changed…attendance at this very special Mass waned, and thinking they were doing the ‘faithful’ a favor…the United States Bishops got together and petitioned the Vatican to switch it to the following Sunday, in order that more of the faithful could participate in this special feast. But unfortunately, by moving the celebration of the Lord’s Ascension into heaven, from Thursday to Sunday…they have actually given the impression that it has lost some of the importance that used to surround it, when it was set apart from the normal Sunday obligation, as it was, in the traditional calendar of the Church. But don’t let the switch fool you…this is one of the big feasts…it is an Ecumenical Feast, meaning that, because of it’s importance, it is celebrated throughout the entire Church. It is ranked right up there with the feasts of Christ’s Passion, Easter, Pentecost and Christmas.
Gospel: Luke 24: 46-53
46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” 50 Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. 51 While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; 53 and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Gospel: Acts 1: 6-12
(6)When they had gathered together they asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”(7) He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons that the Father has established by His own authority. (8) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (9) When he had said this, as they were looking on, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight. (10) While they were looking intently at the sky as He was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. (11) They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking as the sky? This Jesus Who has been taken from you into Heaven will return in the same way as you have seen Him going into Heaven.” (12) Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath day’s journey away.