The Ascension of the Lord | Year B

Posted on May 10, 2024 View all Gospel Reflection

My seminary Bible teacher said, “The Apostle’s flunked their final exam!” In our First Reading, after all the time they spent with the Lord– both before and after his resurrection– they ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” It’s like, “Lord, are you going to kick the Roman’s out now and conquer all opposition?”

Jesus rebuffs them, in effect saying, “Yes, when I return and if that time is unknown, its certainty is not.”

In the spirit of setting things straight, Mother’s Day is not a liturgical feast day, and as Stanley Hauerwas provokingly asks, “How many of you worship in a church that recognizes “Mother’s Day”? And he answers, “I am sorry to tell you your salvation is in doubt.” 1

He is making the same point as David Zahl on how secular substitutes for religion leave us unsatisfied.

A Mother’s Day spent on lauding about our perfect mothers can put exterior pressure on them to be that perfect mother which can leave us and them stuck in cultural trappings aimed at an earthly rather a heavenly target.

It speaks to a secular problem. As David Zahl writes: “We are chasing a sense of enoughness. But it remains ever out of reach, and the effort and anxiety are burning us out. American “performancism.”2

My application of his book is that Mother’s Day is not Judgment Day. All Mothers are daughters of God first. Before motherhood and vocation. All women of faith are daughters of God first, whether or not she has born children. That is her identity. Not what she does. And Worshipping God is the most important thing- for all mother’s both physically and spiritually. Ultimately this can help bring you to a fresh appreciation for the grace of God in all its countercultural wonder.

After all, the only perfect mother is the BVM.

Look at Mary’s meekness. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it unto me according to Thy word.” The lowest and humblest task to which we may be called. Conversely the call to the highest destiny and function of Mary as the Mother of God exhibit no less meekness, and sometimes even more grace. For the meekness which accepts and acquiesces in the call to high and responsible destiny needs a higher virtue and a wider range in order that it may submit and yet retain its unaffected character.3

What is interesting is that when your baptized identity is a child of God, it frees you actually serve others with much less stress because you are living with more of God’s grace in your life, which brings us to today, Ascension Sunday.

To rise, ascend up, into the next level living, seated with Christ, rising to a place of trust to take dominion over what troubles us.

He is present by His Spirit and through the Church’s teachings and sacraments. Christ can inhabit the baptized believer, body and soul.

The Church is to make Him present by way of her teaching and the sacraments. In the Eucharist, Christ is present among us.

What in our lives is needing to let go of, to ascend, as it were, and to let that letting go bless us that we might receive the Spirit we need for a new era in our lives?

The way out of performancism is that I am a child of God. For other people to tell us that we are enough, that we are good, etc. can end up being very self-oriented. With Jesus, we lose our life to save it. Its service and being other oriented that we find ourselves

e.g. There comes a point where a couple’s love attains the height of its freedom and becomes the basis of a healthy autonomy, says Pope Francis, about married love.

This happens when each spouse realizes that the other is not his or her own, but has a much more important master, the one Lord. No one but God can presume to take over the deepest and most personal core of the loved one; he alone can be the ultimate center of their life. This demands an interior divestment. The space which each of the spouses makes exclusively for their personal relationship with God not only helps heal the hurts of life in common, but also enables the spouses to find in the love of God the deepest source of meaning in their own lives. Amoris Laetitia 320.

1.    Jason Goroncy, Hauerwas on Mother’s Day, and Other Idols, blog, 05/08/2011

2.    David Zahl, Seculosity, book, 08/25/2020 

3.    Churchman, Lessons from the Character of the Mother of Our Lord, no 51 Dec 1892, p 113-120