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 Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay, WisconsinMay 21, 2004 Issue 

Ascension words: hope, heritage, power

Paul prays that we may know the true mission and ministry of Jesus

May 23, 2004 -- The Ascension of the Lord

By Bishop Robert Morneau

photo of Bishop Robert Morneau
Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. What does the ascension mean to you?

2. What is your response to St. Paul's prayer?

3. How open are you to God's power?

St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, offered a prayer that he surely now prays for us in the communion of saints: "May he [God] enlighten your innermost vision that you may know the great hope to which he has called you, the wealth of his glorious heritage to be distributed among the members of the church, and the immeasurable scope of his power in us who believe."

Hope! Heritage! Power! These are "Ascension" words telling us of the completion of the Paschal Mystery: the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus. Paul was given this innermost vision to see who Jesus was and what his mission and ministry were all about. Paul was filled with hope, understood the heritage God offered to his people, and experienced the power of grace working through his ministry.

Romano Guardini, one of the great spiritual writers of the past century, asserts: "In Christ, something of that other world manifests itself in the world in which we are. God, who became man, rises amongst us and says to each of us, to me also: 'I wish to redeem you from your condition of abandonment. I wish to be your salvation.' To hear these words, to believe in the possibility of this promise and to trust in it despite everything inside us and around us which opposes it - this is Christian hope."

Guardini was given that innermost vision that St. Paul desires that we all have. In this vision we do not constrict ourselves to these few years on planet Earth. We are not limited by time and space but have been made for eternity. We feel this in the longings we have for full knowledge and an everlasting love. In Jesus, through his glorious ascension, our hope will be fulfilled.

God wants to give us a glorious inheritance. We use words like heaven, paradise, eternal life to attempt to capture what lies in store for us. Our heritage will not be about wealth, fame, or power. It will be about knowing ourselves loved and capable of loving. It will be a full knowledge of what truth and goodness and beauty are all about. Our heritage is about relationships, whole, peaceful, and unending.

Until we pass through the gates of death, we need not stand looking up at the skies nor being busy until we drop from shopping. Rather, we are to witness to the life Jesus lived, a life of obedience and self-giving. We are to be people of prayer praising God for his marvelous deeds. We are to preach a penance for the remission of sin. In so doing, our minds and hearts will be prepared to receive that which eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor any mind imagined.

A third thing Paul prays for is that we know "the immeasurable scope of God's power in us who believe." The feast of the Ascension is intimately related to the mystery of Jesus' resurrection and to the upcoming Pentecost event. Jesus returns to the Father and they send the Spirit into our lives. This is a Spirit of great power, bringing about the transformation of the entire world. In faith we believe that that same Spirit dwells within us empowering us to love, to forgive, and to be filled with compassion. The apostles knew that power and used it to build the Kingdom.

Our opening prayer captures well the essence of our feast: "Father in heaven, our minds were prepared for the coming of your kingdom when you took Christ beyond our sight so that we might seek him in his glory. May we follow where he has led and find our hope in his glory."

(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay.)

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