Important Parish Information

Please note changes to Mass times below effective Oct 31st

A Reflection for the 7th Sunday of Easter

May 24, 2020

This past Thursday, May 21, the Church celebrated the Solemnity of the Lord’s Ascension into Heaven.  The celebration falls exactly 40 days after Easter, reflecting what St. Luke recorded in Acts of the Apostles.  But why 40 days after Easter?  What’s the significance of that?   Dr. Brant Pitre, a noted Catholic biblical scholar and author, says that the number 40 in Scripture always represents two things:

transition and preparation/purification.  In relation to the Ascension, the fortieth day after Easter marks a decisive turning point or transition between the appearances of the risen Lord Jesus to His followers and a new era wherein He will no longer be visible in the same way as before.  It is also a purification of the misunderstandings of the Apostles concerning the nature of the Kingdom of God and a preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

Today’s first reading for Mass is taken from Acts of the Apostles 1:12-14, and follows immediately the account of the Ascension.  It recounts in a very straightforward way that the Apostles returned from Mt. Olivet, the site of the Lord’s Ascension, to Jerusalem where they returned to the Upper Room or Cenacle, the place where Jesus celebrated the Last Supper.  There, together with a number of women, the Virgin Mary and relatives (“brothers”) of the Lord, they “devoted themselves with one accord to prayer.”  Indeed, they had a lot to pray about!  They had just witnessed Jesus rising up and disappearing in a cloud, leaving them alone, without their teacher, their friend and constant companion of the last three years.  What comes next for these first Christians?  How would Jesus continue to be present to them and lead them?

In Italy, especially in Tuscany, the feast of the Ascension is often called La Festa del Grillo or the Festival of the Cricket.  Between Ascension Thursday and the Sunday after the Ascension (Seventh Sunday of Easter), families typically go out into the countryside and have a picnic in the shade of a tree.  Various foods and barbequed meats are served and children either try to catch crickets or they may buy crickets in delightfully decorated little cages sold by vendors.  A singing cricket is considered to bring good fortune as is the act of setting the cricket free.    This tradition goes back to the days of the Roman Empire but its connection to the Ascension is not entirely clear.  At any rate, the image of a cricket singing in its little cage in some way echoes, perhaps, the disciples praying for the coming of the Spirit in the Upper Room.  Deep prayer is the only way to transition to and prepare for life lived by the light of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit who will make the presence of Jesus come alive within each follower of the Lord.

Like those first disciples, we also are living in a time of transition, hoping to begin, however cautiously and carefully, to get back to something approaching normal in our lives.  And yet, we are quickly nearing the grim milestone of 100,000 lives claimed by the Coronavirus.   Going forward in this time will require wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and the fear of the Lord… in other words, the gifts of the Holy Spirit each of us received when we were confirmed.  In our own Upper Room, that inner place in our heart where we encounter the Lord most intimately, let us ask Him in these days leading up to Pentecost to understand more deeply what His going forth from us in the Ascension means, and to prepare and purify our minds and hearts to receive the outpouring of His Spirit anew, that we may face the future strengthened by the constant and faithful companionship of the Advocate, our Paraclete, who ever makes the Lord Jesus present to us.

Come, Holy Spirit, come!

God be with you always!

Fr. Gregory

Additional information