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Why is the Ascension of Jesus so Important to Christians?

Why is the Ascension of Jesus so Important to Christians?

On Good Friday, there was a crucifixion. On Easter Sunday, resurrection. And now, forty days later, ascension.

For many Christians and churches, Easter is the end of the celebrating. We tend to forget or just skim over the essential part of the story where Jesus ascended back into heaven. We might even hear that today is Ascension Day and think, “why does that matter for me at all?” or wonder what this day even means.

We find the ascension story told in the first chapter of Acts, following the Gospels. Acts 1:9 tells us “He was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight,” and verse 11 adds, “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

In Learning Jesus Christ Through the Heidelberg Catechism, Karl Barth says, “The conquest of death and the exaltation of life was an event in Jesus Christ the Head. His exaltation is history just as his humiliation is history.”

Andrew Wilson goes on to add, “We must in any case understand objectively the statement that Jesus Christ was taken up from earth into heaven before the eyes of the disciples.” Acts 1 makes this clear to us.

So now that we know the story, we can dive deeper into its importance and relevance for our lives and our faith.

“The ascension is a vital part of the redemption story,” Steve Mathewson writes for The Gospel Coalition. “If we simply collapse the ascension into the resurrection, we miss stunning benefits tied directly to Jesus being taken into heaven.”

It’s not enough to celebrate the Risen Lord on one spring Sunday and then forget about what comes next. The ascension is crucial, and it’s life-changing and eternity-changing for us as believers.

Mathewson shares five ways the ascension of Jesus benefits us:

  1. It establishes Jesus as the reigning king over all powers in all ages.Ephesians 1:20-21 says God “raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” Ephesians 2:6-7 brings us into the picture, saying “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.” Mathewson adds, “It’s the Lord’s power that makes this possible (Eph. 6:10)—a power we can access as believers seated in the heavenly realms with our ascended King.”
  2. It gives us access to God’s throne for mercy and grace. In Jesus “we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens” (Heb. 4:14),” Mathewson says. “Passed through the heavens” is the ascension language; Jesus passed through the heavens to be seated at the Father’s right hand (Heb. 1:3). What’s the result? We can now “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).
  3. It provides an Advocate on earth whose presence is limitless. I can’t imagine the confusion and grief of the disciples when they learned that their teacher and friend would be killed. In John 14:16-17, we see Jesus comforting them with the promise that the Father will send another advocate, the Spirit of Truth. “How is Jesus’s leaving an advantage for his disciples?” The answer is simple, yet profound,” Mathewson says. “The incarnate Jesus was limited by space and time. He couldn’t be with each one of his followers at once. If he had stayed on earth, he couldn’t have been there simultaneously for Peter in Rome and John on the island of Patmos. But the Holy Spirit can. His empowering presence is available to all Jesus’s followers everywhere at the same time.”
  4. It gives us the spoils of Christ’s victory– gifted leaders and spiritual gifts. “In Ephesians 4:7–12, Paul connects the grace we’ve received with the ascension,” Mathewson explains. “This grace refers to spiritual gifts Paul describes elsewhere (see 1 Cor. 12) and to the gifted ministers of the Word (Eph. 4:11).”
  5. It keeps us longing for his return. Once you’ve gotten close to someone and spent significant time in their presence, their absence feels like a massive void. It is the same with Jesus for us as believers, and especially for his first disciples. He isn’t here in the flesh with us now, but He one day will be, and our hearts yearn for that day. We know he will set all things right and bring us close to Him for all eternity. “The ascension creates a longing for Jesus’s return,” says Mathewson. “It reminds us his reign is “already” but “not yet.” When Jesus descends in the way he ascended, the bad times will be over for good, the darkness will lift, and everything sad will at last come untrue.”

On this Ascension Day, may we reflect on how the crucifixion, the resurrection, and the ascension of our Savior Jesus Christ changed the whole course of our lives and changed our world forever. May we celebrate that our Lord is reigning from heaven as the one true King, and may we rejoice that we have the Holy Spirit as our ever-present advocate. May we eagerly await His return and fervently share the Gospel until He does.

Saints of the Day for Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Saints of the Day for Thursday, April 18th, 2019

Image of St. Apollonius the Apologist

St. Apollonius the Apologist

Facts

Feast day: April 18
Death: 185

Martyr whose Apologia, or defense of the faith, is considered one of the most priceless documents of the early Church. Apollonius was a Roman senator who was denounced as a Christian by one of his slaves. The Praetorian Prefect, Sextus Tigidius Perennis, arrested him, also putting the slave to death as an informer.

Perennis demanded that Apollonius denounce the faith, and when he refused, the case was remanded to the Roman senate. There a debate took place between Perennis and Apollonius that clearly outlines the beauty and the value of Christianity. Despite his eloquent defense, Apollonius was condemned and beheaded

Image of St. Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur

St. Peter of Saint Joseph Betancur

Facts

Feast day: April 18
Patron of Canary Islands and Guatemala
Birth: 1626
Death: 1667
Beatified By: June 22, 1980 by Pope John Paul II
Canonized By: July 30, 2002, Guatemala City, Guatemala by Pope John Paul II

The son of a poor family of the Canary Islands, Peter de Betancur in his youth worked as a shepherd, finding in nature an incentive to prayer. Intent to serve the poor in the New World, he embarked on an arduous journey to Guatemala that ultimately left him penniless.

In Guatemala City, Peter entered a Jesuit college through the assistance of a Franciscan friar, but soon left after failing in his studies. The friar then invited Peter to become a Franciscan brother, but the young man declined, feeling that God willed for him to remain in the world. Instead, Peter became a Third Order Franciscan, devoting himself to the service of African slaves, Native Americans, and other needy individuals.

As a penance, each night he went out to carry a heavy cross through the streets. Peter later founded a congregation for the care of the poor, the Bethlehemite Brothers and Sisters. Deeply devoted to the Christ Child, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the relief of the souls in purgatory, Peter was a promoter of the Franciscans’ rosary of the Seven Joys of Mary, and instituted a weekly rosary procession in Guatemala City. He died on April 25, 1667

St. Agia
St. Athanasia of Aegina
St. Calocerus
St. Cogitosus
St. Corebus
St. Eleutherius & Anthia
St. Galdinus
St. Gebuinus
St. Laserian
Bl. Marie-Anne Blondin
St. Pedro de San Jose Betancur
St. Perfectus
St. Wicterp

Can a Catholic receive communion at a non-Catholic service? Why or why not?

Can a Catholic receive communion at a non-Catholic service? Why or why not?

A Catholic may not receive Holy Communion at an Orthodox Divine Service because the Orthodox do not welcome Catholics AND because they are not in communion with the Vicar of Christ.

A Catholic may not receive Holy Communion at a St. Pius X Society Mass because the Vatican has specifically forbidden this.

A Catholic can not receive Holy Communion at a Protestant service because they do not have a valid Eucharist and there is no Holy Communion to even worry about.

Further, a Catholic can nottake “communion” at a Protestant service because that would indicate you believe as they do, and you are in communion with them. All Protestant sects are considered heretical, and one would effectively be excommunicating oneself from the Catholic Church by participating in a Protestant communion service.

Finally, a Catholic may request Holy Communion and the other sacraments from an Orthodox or schismatic priest (St. Pius X, Polish National Catholic, etc.) IF they are in danger of death and unable to get to a Catholic priest. Trying to imagine where one would be where you would access to a schismatic priest but not a Catholic priest rather boggles the mind, but the law is on the books.

However, the question is somewhat ambiguous. It could mean either:

  1. Does the Roman Catholic Church permit its members to receive communion at a non-Catholic service? Response: I’ll let the Catholics answer this one. But certain Orthodox churches recognize the Catholic Pope as their spiritual leader and I suspect that they share communion.
  2. Do non-Catholic services welcome Catholics to receive communion? Answer: Some do and some don’t. My denomination, The United Methodist Church, practices the “open table”. Anyone who professes to be Christian is welcome to receive the elements. We don’t check your credentials but instead leave it up to you and God. Grace is an important part of our Wesleyan tradition.
How many times can a person receive Holy Communion each day?

How many times can a person receive Holy Communion each day?

The Code of Canon Law (#917) stipulates, “A person who has received the Most Holy Eucharist may receive it again on the same day only during the celebration of the Eucharist in which the person participates, with due regard for the prescription of Canon 921, §2.”  Following this lead, Canon 921, §2 stipulates, “Even if they have received Communion in the same day, those who are in danger of death are strongly urged to receive again.”  Succinctly, a person may receive Holy Communion twice a day.

Given this citing of official Church law, we must appreciate the rationale that serves as its foundation.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and the celebration of the Blessed Sacrament is “the true center of the whole Christian life both for the universal Church and for the local congregation of that Church” (Instruction on the Worship of the Eucharistic Mystery, #6).  The offering of the Mass and the reception of Holy Communion are intrinsically connected.  Moreover, the components of the Mass, particularly the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, form a cohesive whole.

Therefore, in ordinary circumstances, an individual is obligated to participate fully in the entire Mass making an offering of oneself to the Lord.  The person ought to be present from the very beginning until the very end of the Mass, giving full attention as best one can.  Such full participation and attention dispose the individual to receive Holy Communion.  Worthy reception of Holy Communion not only enables the individual to enter into communion with the Lord, but also binds that individual in a communion of faith and love with the other members of the Church.

Never, in ordinary circumstances, do we isolate the reception of Holy Communion from the rest of the Mass.  The Church grants the permission of receiving Holy Communion twice in one day to meet those situations of a person attending perhaps a wedding Mass and a funeral Mass on the same day, or attending the regular daily Mass and then some special Mass the same day; nevertheless, the stipulation is that the person attends the whole Mass in both instances.  Unfortunately, I have known individuals who on a daily basis just “pop” into Mass (even Masses) at the right time to receive Holy Communion and then leave before Mass concludes; it is almost like they are getting their “Jesus fix” for the day rather than worshiping God and wholeheartedly receiving the Blessed Sacrament.

As qualified in Canon 921, §2, in those special circumstances when a person is in danger of death, then he may receive Holy Communion as viaticum along with Penance and Anointing of the Sick, even though he may have received twice already that day.  Another special circumstance arises when the person is confined in a hospital or homebound: here the person may receive outside the context of Mass, but would not receive more than once a day unless in danger of death.

Two other basic stipulations govern the reception of Holy Communion:  First, a person who is conscious of mortal sin must first make a sacramental confession and receive absolution.  If no legitimate opportunity exists for first going to confession, then a person may make an act of perfect contrition with the pledge to the Lord to go to Penance as soon as possible before receiving Holy Communion (Code of Canon Law, #916).

Second, a person must fast from food and drink (except water or medicine) for one hour beforehand (Code of Canon Law, #919).  However, the period of fast before receiving Holy Communion is reduced to “approximately one quarter of an hour” for those who are sick at home or at a hospital, those elderly confined to home or a nursing home, and those who care for these people and who are unable conveniently to observe the fast (Immensae Caritatis, 1973).

The Church in her prudence provides these laws to help us have a balanced spiritual life, avoiding extremes.  Just as the Church requires a person to receive Holy Communion at least once a year (the “Easter duty law”), so does the Church restrict the number of times we can receive a day.