Hesitation and Doubt

The story is told that Leonardo da Vinci worked away on a large canvas in his studio.  For a while he worked at it – choosing the subject, planning the perspective, sketching the outline, applying the colors, with his own inimitable genius.  Then suddenly he stopped working on it.  Summoning one of his talented students, the master invited him to complete the work.  The horrified student protested that he was both unworthy and unable to complete the great painting which his master had begun.  But da Vinci replied: “Will not what I have done inspire you to do your best?” Continue reading

Christmas and Ascension – Life Lessons

Fr. Antony Kadavil, in a 2019 post from Vatican News, wrote: “The Ascension is most closely related, in meaning, to Christmas. In Jesus, the human and the Divine become united in the Person and life of one man. That’s Christmas. At the Ascension, this human being – the person and the resurrected body of Jesus – became for all eternity a part of who God is. It was not the Spirit of Jesus or the Divine Nature of Jesus that ascended to the Father.  It was the Risen living Body of Jesus: a Body that the disciples had touched, a Body in which He Himself  had eaten and drunk with them both before and after His Resurrection, a real, physical, but gloriously restored Body, bearing the marks of nails and a spear. This is what, and Who, ascended. This is what, now and forever, is a living, participating part of God. That is what the Ascension, along with the Incarnation, is here to tell us – that it is a good thing to be a human being; indeed it is a wonderful and an important and a holy thing to be a human being. It is such an important thing that God did it. Even more, the fullness of God now includes what it means to be a human being.” Continue reading

Universal Mandate

19 Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit,  20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” One should be struck by the repetition of the word “all” in this passage:

  1. Jesus has been given all power (v.18).
  2. Disciples are to be made of all nations (v.19).
  3. Disciples are to obey all that Jesus commanded (v.20).
  4. Jesus will be with the disciples always (literally “all the days”; v.20).

Continue reading

Doubt and Hesitation

This coming Sunday is the Solemnity of the Ascension. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Many English translations offer “but some doubted.”  Unfortunately the word “some” does not appear in the Greek text.  The only two valid translations are “they worshiped, but they doubted (hesitated)” or “they worshiped and they doubted (hesitated).”  It is hard to avoid the simple statement of the text: those who worship are also those who doubt. Continue reading

The Eleven

This coming Sunday is the Solemnity of the Ascension. Jesus was from Galilee and since the beginning of his public ministry had moved from the northernmost reaches of Israel to its center in Jerusalem – the locus of the confrontation and rejection by the leaders of Israel. But now the “Galilean” has triumphed against all odds and in a manner none had foreseen. The preparation of the “twelve” was not lost in their abandoning Jesus at the Passion. They are now restored to their positions of trust and responsibility and given final instructions for fulfilling the mission to which they had already been called (cf.  10:1-15) – but the scope is now far wider than Israel and included all the nations: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19) Continue reading


This coming Sunday is the Solemnity of the Ascension. In the Gospel according to Matthew, this is the first scene in which disciples have appeared since they fled during the arrest of Jesus (26:56). Since that point in the narrative, Jesus has been crucified, died and laid to rest in the tomb. In the verses just before our text (Mt 28:7 and 10), the tomb has been just found empty by the faithful women who reported that an angel of the Lord and Jesus himself has appeared with a message for the “eleven disciples:” “Go tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (v.10) Continue reading

The Ascension History and Celebration

The observance of this solemnity is of great antiquity. Eusebius seems to hint at the already established celebration of it in the 4th century. At the beginning of the 5th century, Augustine of Hippo says that it is of Apostolic origin, and he speaks of it in a way that indicates it was the universal observance of the Catholic Church long before his time. In any case, representations of the Ascension are found in diptychs and frescoes dating to the 5th century. Hymns for this feast are found in the Georgian Chantbook of Jerusalem which also dates to the 5th century. Continue reading

On the borderline

When I was in seminary, our homiletics professor had lots of advice and pointers for the Sunday homily. The professor was pretty adamant about not explaining theology. And I mostly agree with his point – it can make a homily really dry and fill it with language that needs its own explanation. The professor’s final point was that your explanation was likely to cross the borderline of orthodoxy and give an inaccurate or heretical version of the underlying theology.  Best to just keep it simple and well clear of the border. Continue reading

The Ascension Gospel

This coming Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension. The readings are taken from St. Luke’s Gospel and his Acts of the Apostles. Both the first reading and the gospel are accounts of the Ascension, making this event the linchpin between the two works of St. Luke. Yesterday we considered the account in the Acts of the Apostles in detail. Today we turn our attention to the Gospel account. Continue reading