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This Sunday's Programme

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Ascension C

Sunday 29th May 2022

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Background Jesus appeared to the disciples after the return of the disciples from Emmaus. He greeted them with peace, showed them his wounds, ate a piece of fish, then confirmed that all that had happened to him was according to the Scriptures. Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.

Lk 24:46-53

He then went on: ‘So now you see how it was written that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from dead on the third day, that repentance and the forgiveness of sin be preached in his name, beginning here in Jerusalem. You are the witnesses to all this.

‘Now, listen carefully, I am commissioning you with the promise of the Father. Wait here in the city until you are clothed with the power from on high.’

Then Jesus led them out as far as Bethany. Lifting up his hand, he blessed them. And it happened that as he blessed them, he parted away from them and was carried up into heaven. Then they worshipped him and returned to Jerusalem full of joy. They were continually in the Temple praising God. Amen.


The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 46: 2-3,6-7,8-9

All nations clap and shout!
Shout to God with joyful cries.
How awesome is God, the most high,
Great king over all the earth.

God ascends with joyful shouts,
God in the midst of the trumpets.
Oh sing praises to God, sing, sing praise,
praise to our King!

God – king of all the earth,
sing, a psalm of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God on the throne of holiness.


Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, we have not known Jesus in the flesh yet still we are called to be his witnesses. Send us your Spirit from on high that we may live by the life of Jesus and radiate his love to all whom we know. We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

The author of Luke and Acts places a great deal of emphasis on the veracity of his writings. At the beginning of his Gospel, he clearly states that he has gone over all the material to hand and has written an ordered account of what has happened. So it is somewhat disconcerting for us to discover that there is a major difference between his two accounts of the Ascension both of which are readings for this feast. In the text from Acts, Jesus ascends 40 days after the Resurrection. In the Gospel, though it is not clear in the lectionary text, Jesus ascends on the night of his Resurrection after having appeared to the disciples as a group. One can hardly accuse the author of being confused as these two accounts appear side by side in the single text of Luke-Acts. With such a discrepancy, we are made to realise that the theological truth that Luke is teaching is not dependent on historical ‘facts’ as we appreciate them. We need to look at the meaning of the elements of the story as they are presented in their own context. Broadly speaking, the Gospel of Luke is the story of Jesus on earth. The Book of Acts is the story of the beginnings of the Church.

In the Gospel, the Ascension of Jesus on the night of the Resurrection underlines the fact that these two events are intimately united. The raising of Jesus from death to a glorified life, ‘see-able’ by the disciples, is only an aspect of his raising to glory with the Father. With his Ascension of Easter night, we are told that his earthly life here is concluded and now the time has come for his salvation to be preached by his disciples to the world. In a few short dense sentences, Jesus summarises how his life and death fulfilled the Scriptures, how the disciples, by what they had seen and experienced, were his witnesses. Now the Holy Spirit, the power by which he fulfilled his ministry and whom he proclaimed in his first preaching (see Lk 4:18) is to be given to these disciples that they might preach to the world the salvation that has been given. Jesus leads them out to Bethany – the place where he had entered Jerusalem as king. From this place, he enters heaven to take up the true kingship that belongs to him. Indeed, for the first time in the Gospel, the disciples are said to worship Jesus. They then return to Jerusalem, spending their time in the Temple, worshipping God. Luke’s Gospel account began with Zechariah and the people worshiping in the Temple. Now it concludes in that same Temple in a similar expectant stance.


Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

In the Gospel of John the Resurrection, Ascension and giving of the Spirit all take place on Easter Day. Luke is a little more flexible – he has the Ascension on Easter night in the Gospel and after 40 days in the Book of Acts. Then the disciples have to wait 10 more days for the sending of the Spirit. So what can these discrepancies tell us? At the Easter Vigil, during the blessing of the Paschal Candle, the priest says, ‘All time belongs to him’. For Jesus Christ, rising, ascending to the Father and sending the Spirit can happen in one moment but we, who now are bound by time, live moment by moment, slowly growing into an understanding of our faith. In Acts, Jesus uses the 40 days to continue to instruct his disciples – and even then at the end of that time they are not ready for his mission. They need the Spirit…but they don’t realise that yet. Waiting those 10 days would make them think about the enormity of the mission ahead of them and their inadequacy for the task.

Quite simply for us, things take time: whether it is the growth of a child, the learning of a task or growth in faith. It is a common religious experience that in a moment of grace we see things with a peculiar clarity and insight. The moment passes but it is not lost. We are expected to ‘unpack’ these moments of grace, to ponder them, pray over them and apply them to our lives. Like Jesus’ Resurrection, they take but a moment, but to understand them takes many moments of wondering and learning till we discover how to make them a reality in our lives.


Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

Twice in the Gospel for this Feast, Jesus is said to bless his disciples at his Ascension. The second time the word ‘blessing’ is used, it is linked to Jesus’ withdrawal from his disciples. Indeed, one could say that Luke was stating that the disciples were being blessed in Jesus’ departure. How could this be? Perhaps we could understand it better if we contrast how the disciples and we ourselves could act if Jesus was physically with us and how we should act now that he has withdrawn the physical presence the disciples knew.

If Jesus were present to us physically- we would focus serving him. As he is not, we are to serve him in each other.
If Jesus were present to us physically – we would expect him to do the things that needed doing, like helping people. As he is not, we are the ones who have to do what he would do.
If Jesus were present to us physically – we would be dependent on him as our leader, expecting him to state clearly what he wants done. As he is not, we have to draw on our own resources and gifts, being enlightened and graced by the Holy Spirit.

If Jesus were present to us physically – we would focus our worship on him. As he is not, we are to worship, not only alone, but in a community, learning from each other how to relate to him.
We see that if Jesus were present to us, we would diminish ourselves in a kind of false dependency. As he is hidden from us, but present in the Spirit, his grace calls us to grow up to salvation. We are to live his life, reveal his face, love with his love within the personality he has given us. Hidden in his physicality, he becomes even more present as God-with-us, God working within us.

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

Art Works

  • This painting of the Ascension by Giotto shows Jesus ascending past the choirs of angels to the Father (click red text).
  • The great Russian icon painter, Andrei Rublev, interpretation of the Ascension (click red text).
  • In Albrecht Altdorfer’s Ascension of Christ we see the Resurrection and Ascension together (click red text).
  • Benjamin West’s painting of the the Ascension aims to give a literal interpretation of the scene (click red text).
  • While Peter Rogers’ painting is more symbolic (click red text).
  • The images by Jan Richardson give a very modern interpretation of the Ascension. Ascension one
    and Ascension Two (click red text).


Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

As you go through this week, mull on the differing ways Jesus makes himself present to you. In what circumstances do you feel challenged? In what circumstances do you feel consoled? In what circumstances do you feel that you are being called to witness to the Kingdom of God?

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God.

Consider your sense of the presence and absence of Christ in your life. In what ways does the absence of the physical presence of Christ challenge you in the living of your faith? What qualities of Christ do you feel called to internalise and then reveal to the world in the way you live your life? Imagine ways you could do this in the coming week.

Rest in the love of your God.

Suggestions for the Programme

The elements of the programme can be used in any way that helps your prayer. The suggestions below are fairly simple ways of using this programme.


Become conscious of your God
Hymn or poem
Reading of Gospel text
Mulling over a reflection
Our Father


Become conscious of your God
Reading of Gospel text and reflection
Our Father


Staff Prayer
The programme can also be used for Staff Prayer. How you may put together such a prayer would be influenced largely by the size and dynamics of your staff. For example, a smaller staff group might be able to use discussion of a movie as a way of exploring the meaning of a Gospel.

A painting illustrating the Gospel could be displayed on an interactive board
Reading of the Gospel
Invitation for share reflections
Our Father

Another Example
Reading of part of the Gospel
One or two of the mulling themes
Time for reflection
Our Father

  • Alleluia! Sing to Jesus by William Chatterton Dix
  • Crown Him With Many Crowns by Matthew Bridges and Godfrey Thring
  • The Head that was once was Crowned with Thorns by Thomas Kelly
  • Hail the Day that sees Him Rise by Charles Wesley –
  • All the Ends of the Earth by Bob Dufford.

from La Corona by John Donne

Salute the last, and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this Sunne, and Sonne,
Ye whose just tears, or tribulation
Have purely washed, or burnt your drossy clay;
Behold the Highest, parting hence away,
Lightens the dark clouds, which he treads upon,
Nor doth he by ascending, show alone,
But first he, and he first enters the way.
O strong Ram which hast battered heaven for me,
Mild lamb, which with thy blood, hast marked the path;
Bright Torch, which shin’st, that I the way may see,
Oh, with thy own blood quench thy own just wrath.
And if the holy Spirit, my Muse did raise,
Deign at my hands this crown of prayer and praise.

Two Ascension Hymns by John Wesley

Ye Faithful Souls, who Jesus Know

YE faithful souls, who Jesus know,
if risen indeed with him ye are,
superior to the joys below,
His resurrection’s power declare.

Your faith by holy tempers prove,
by actions show your sins forgiven,
and seek the glorious things above,
and follow Christ, your Head, to heaven.

There your exalted Saviour see,
Seated at God’s right hand again,
in all his Father’s majesty,
in everlasting pomp to reign.

To him continually aspire,
contending for your native place;
and emulate the angel-choir,
and only live to love and praise.

For who by faith your Lord receive,
ye nothing seek or want beside;
dead to the world and sin ye live,
your creature-love is crucified.

Your real life, with Christ concealed,
deep in the Father’s bosom lies;
and, glorious as your Head revealed,
ye soon shall meet him in the skies.

God is Gone up on High

GOD is gone up on high,
with a triumphant noise;
the clarions of the sky
proclaim the angelic joys!
Join all on earth, rejoice and sing;
glory ascribe to glory’s King.

God in the flesh below,
for us he reigns above:
let all the nations know
our Jesu’s conquering love!
Join all on earth, rejoice and sing;
glory ascribe to glory’s King.

All power to our great Lord
is by the Father given;
by angel-hosts adored,
He reigns supreme in heaven:
Join all on earth, rejoice and sing;
glory ascribe to glory’s King.

High on his holy seat
He bears the righteous sway;
His foes beneath his feet
shall sink and die away:
Join all on earth, rejoice and sing;
glory ascribe to glory’s King.

His foes and ours are one,
Satan, the world, and sin;
but he shall tread them down,
and bring his kingdom in:
Join all on earth, rejoice and sing;
glory ascribe to glory’s King.

Till all the earth, renewed
in righteousness divine,
with all the hosts of God
in one great chorus join:
Join all on earth, rejoice and sing;
glory ascribe to glory’s King.

From Ascension Day

I soar and rise
Up to the skies,
Leaving the world their day,
And in my flight,
For the true light
Go seeking all the way.

-Henry Vaughan
from Ascension Day

He that hath found some fledged bird’s nest may know
At first sight, if the bird be flown;
But what fair well or grove he sings in now,
That is to him unknown.

-Henry Vaughan Last verse of World of Light

Why, since You wounded
This heart, don’t You heal it?
And why, since You stole it from me,
Do You leave it so,
And fail to carry off what You have stolen?

-John of the Cross from The Spiritual Canticle