Go! Week 3: Ascension: Stay Connected
Ascension Sunday: Go! Stay Connected
The last two weeks we have been saying that the word Go is a very important word in Catholic Christianity. We have been talking about how God sends us out to Go do good Christian things with other people and that we play an active role in the church’s mission of bringing others to Jesus. We are sent out by Jesus as his disciples who will help him make disciples of other people.
Last week we said that God has given all of us the Holy Spirit to help us do things like helping him make disciples, so that we are never alone. Jesus tells us to go and share the good news, and he gives you the Holy Spirit to help you do that, so that you are never alone.
The Holy Spirit is always with us. And all of us, me included, need to remind ourselves that the Holy Spirit is always alive and active within us. How do we remind ourselves of that? How do we access the help of the Holy Spirit? How do we mindfully stay connected to the Holy Spirit within us? The answer is prayer.
We remind ourselves that we are never alone through prayer. When we talk about finding the courage and the wisdom to go do what Jesus sends us to do, we find courage and wisdom when we pray. And our courage is sustained when we stay connected to God through prayer and sacrament. The sacraments, like receiving Holy Communion, can sustain us but only to the degree that we open ourselves to God. We can only open ourselves to God through prayer.
Therefore, we stay connected, are sustained, through prayer and sacrament. Prayer comes first. Pray is not part of your relationship with God. Prayer is your relationship with God. Prayer is how we relate to God and stay connected to him. We talk with God, we listen to God, and we interact with God through prayer. Let’s take a look at how today’s Mass speaks to us about prayer.
First of all the Mass itself is prayer. It is prayer par excellence, the loftiest, the most sublime, and at the same time the most “concrete” form of prayer. In fact, Mass is a loving encounter with God through his Word and the Body and Blood of Jesus which we receive in Holy Communion. Mass is an encounter with the Lord. Mass is prayer because prayer is an encounter with the Lord.
During Mass we surrender to God concretely during the offertory of the Mass. When the priest offers the bread and the wine to God the Father, we are all supposed to offer the gift of ourselves, that is why it is called the offertory. We will talk more about that in a couple of minutes.
Let’s start from the beginning of Mass.
One of the first prayers we prayed together today is called the collect. Sometimes people call it the opening prayer. That is the prayer we pray in the beginning of Mass when the priest says, Let us pray. It is called the collect because the priest is collecting all the prayers of the people in the congregation, collecting all of your prayers, and offering them to God. That is why, for this prayer, the priest will pause after he says Let us pray.
How about the offertory? When the gifts of bread and wine are brought up during Mass we call that the offertory. The priest will then pray what is called the prayer over the offerings. Today that prayer speaks of the “holy exchange.” We do not just offer bread and wine to God, we offer our very selves to the Lord in prayer and he sustains us with an awareness of his presence, and with hope. That is the holy exchange. God the Father gives us the gift of his Son, Jesus, the best he has to give, and in turn we offer to him the gift of ourselves and the best we have to give.
Then the last prayer we pray together today is The prayer after communion which speaks of “Christian hope drawing us onward.” Christian hope is sustained with prayer.
The readings we had from the bible today also speak to us about prayer.
The disciples in first reading seem dejected that he left. They stay connected to Jesus through prayer. We too are told to go and do the same.
In the responsorial psalm we sang today we heard “Sing praise to God, sing praise” Praise is a form of prayer and worship.
Then Saint Paul told us today “may the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call” The eyes of our hearts are opened through prayer and reflecting on God in prayer.
Lastly the Gospel today says: they worshiped the Lord, but they doubted. Throughout the bible, the disciples’ doubts are alleviated when Jesus speaks with them and they speak with him. Listening and speaking with the Lord is prayer. We should bring our doubts to God in prayer. That way we stay connected to God even when we are struggling.
Next Sunday we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes upon the apostles. The apostles did not think they could do the work of Jesus, which was sharing the good news of their faith. And they were right. Without the Holy Spirit, they could not share the good news. Just like you, they needed the Holy Spirit to help them share the gift of their faith.
Jesus tells us in that first reading today that we need the Holy Spirit to help us to share the gift of our faith. Ascension Sunday is always the time when our hearts and our minds begin to turn to the Holy Spirit. No matter what doubts we have, we can still begin to call on the Holy Spirit, asking for enlightenment, asking for courage, peace, and asking for faith. Remember, courage does not mean you are no longer afraid. Courage means you are afraid but you find the strength to go and do what Jesus tells us to go and do, to share him with the world.
This is what we want you to know this week.
We stay connected to Jesus through prayer, praying as individuals and in groups. There we find hope and a way to stir up and sustain all the gifts the Holy Spirit has to offer.
This is what we encourage you to do.
Pray with the prayer team available after Mass and pray with your families at home as a group. Make a commitment at home to gather everyone around you and pray, whatever form of prayer you use, just pray with your family. Prayer is not part of your relationship with God. Prayer is your relationship with God.