As we hasten toward the end of Easter time (and the end of my time as well) the gospel for this Sixth Sunday of Easter, like last week, contains words spoken by Jesus during his last supper before his passion. The words this Sunday may well be among the richest and most weighty he spoke that evening. The Lord seems to skip from one topic to another, but each topic is important and deserves extensive commentary. Jesus himself gives us the key to understanding the discourse. He says: “I go away for a while and I come back to you...I tell you this now, before it takes place, so that when it takes place you may believe.”
Jesus wants to prepare his disciples for his future absence. During this week, on Thursday, we will celebrate the feast of the Ascension, the day Christ returned to the Father. It is the departure that Christ had to make so that the Holy Spirit might be given to us. We celebrate the feast of the Ascension and use it as a celebration of the moment when Jesus returned to the Father and experienced the triumph that had been promised to the Son of Man. But in reality, the mystery of our Lord’s ascension is richer than that. It was on Easter Sunday that Jesus was glorified and what we will celebrate on Thursday will be the last manifestation of Jesus to his apostles before his definitive return at the end of time.
The readings on Thursday will include the promise of the Holy Spirit and the sending of the apostles on their mission to proclaim this promise and testify to its truth through their personal fidelity.
Some dioceses and countries celebrate the Feast of the Ascension on this day so that the richness of the scriptures, particularly the promise to send the Holy Spirit on Pentecost may be included in the scriptures of this Sunday. And heard by all.
Fr John R. Mulvehill