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 | By Sr. Janet Schaeffler, OP

Bible Study and Prayer for the Feast of the Ascension

This Bible study and reflection prayer accompanies the article Why Does the Ascension Matter?

Bible study: Different Accounts of the Ascension

The Gospel of Matthew: No account of a visible ascension

The Gospel of Mark: On Easter Sunday Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, then to two disciples on a country road – these appearances are not described. Then Jesus appears to the eleven at table and commissions them to go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel. Then, there is a visible ascension: “So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.” (Mk 16:19)

The Gospel of Luke: A visible ascension takes place. On Easter Sunday, the disciples were gathered together talking about appearances that had already taken place that day. In the midst of this, the Lord appeared, spoke and ate with them. The visible ascension follows: “Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.” (Lk 24:50-51)

The Gospel of John: No account of a visible ascension

The Acts of the Apostles: Here, Luke gives another account of the Ascension which indicates that Jesus appeared to the disciples “during 40 days.” (Acts 1:9-11)

Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Spirit were really all parts of a single event, each one flowing out of the other. Our liturgical celebration of this mystery corresponds to Luke’s account in Acts. After Easter Sunday, Jesus appears at different times over 40 days, then visibly ascends to heaven. Then, 10 days later, there is the dramatic outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. This liturgical celebration is great for the Church. Because it is many weeks long, we have more time to take it all in. The mystery is so great that we need time to digest it all – we need the 50 days of the Easter season.

Reflection: Prayer in the Spirit of the Ascension

These prayers – in the spirit of the message of the Ascension – may be prayed at home by families or in parish gatherings, as we recall the challenge of Jesus’ call to us to preach and live the Good News.

Gracious God, set us on fire with your Good News.

Let us pray for all Christians everywhere who are called to preach the Gospel. For this, let us pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for all Church leaders, who encourage and lead us in the work of evangelization. For them, let us pray to the Lord.

Let us pray for those who preach the Gospel of love by working for justice and peace. For them, let us pray to the Lord.

Let us pray that all Christians may be enflamed with courage and creativity to preach the Good News of salvation. For this, let us pray to the Lord.