Gospel Reflection – Ascension Sunday – Sun 24 May


Unfinished Business – But Hope

Having escaped the clutches of his enemies by rising from the dead, the Lord ascends, like the prophet Elijah, to heaven.

In biblical language and imagery this manner of describing the close of Jesus’ earthly ministry signals that the One who had been crucified on the trumped-up charge of being a political Messiah has now entered into his true messianic glory at God’s right hand.

This entrance into heavenly glory does not mean that Jesus abandons either his disciples or his saving mission in the world. Rather, he will continue to exercise that mission through the ministry of the Church, empowered (at Pentecost) by the same Spirit that rested upon him.

Just before he departs, the disciples voice an understandable concern: “Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” The query betrays a strong sense of “unfinished business”. Despite the Easter victory, forces hostile to God and to true humanity continue to hold sway in the world—as the disciples, and we ourselves, remain acutely aware.

Jesus does not give a direct answer. The time of the Kingdom’s full arrival remains shrouded in the mystery of God. The disciples’ task, meanwhile, is to take up the messianic mission of Jesus, bringing the hope of the resurrection to an often despairing world.

The Ascension is not, then, simply something that happened to Jesus. As the Preface of the Mass says so well, he “has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us but to be our hope; where he has gone, we hope to follow”.

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Dcn Royden is leading a Pentecost Experience session to celebrate the great feast of Pentecost. The session will be held on Sat 30 May starting at 7:00pm over the ZOOM platform and consists of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, Praise & Worship, Scripture Reading, Video, Reflections, Silent reflection and Benediction. The session can be accessed on ZOOM:

Direct Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/82846686914?pwd=MGtsUXhBTU8zdW1NTm1ycWRYR0lyZz09

or by entering:

Meeting ID: 828 4668 6914
Password: 543198.

It will also be LIVE on the parish Facebook Page. Come and join us to prepare for  the feast of Pentecost and to experience the renewed out-pouring of the Holy Spirit. Enquiries Dcn Royden on 0426 071 375.

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The combined Parishes of St James and St Peters is hosting their next Bible Study session on Mon 25 May from 7pm-8pm via ZOOM:

Direct Link: https://us04web.zoom.us/j/9689427525?pwd=akpXUHFPQTJRazRxZVZaOVVhZlM4QT09

or by entering:

Meeting ID: 968 942 7525
Password: 2Vp4ef

This session will be on the Gospel of John, Chapter 4. For more information please email gonsalvesclive@hotmail.com.

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To commemorate the fifth anniversary of his landmark encyclical, “Laudato Si’ – on Care for Our Common Home” – Pope Francis invites Catholics from all over the world to renew his urgent call to respond to the ecological crisis by joining in a week of celebration and action.

On this fifth anniversary, Pope Francis invites all Catholics to undertake ambitious actions to address the mounting environmental perils facing the planet and its people.

The question which Pope Francis leaves us with is: “What kind of world do we want to leave to those who will come after us, to children who are growing up?”

As we honour the encyclical during Laudato Si’ Week, our world continues to be deeply affected by the coronavirus pandemic. Laudato Si’ Week helps us reshape the world that will arise after the pandemic has passed. The present crisis is an opportunity to start anew, and to make sure that the world that arises after this crisis has passed is sustainable and just.

For more information, go to the following link:


Geralyn McCarthy
Director of Faith and Mission
Thomas Carr College

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In last week’s Gospel Jesus reflected on two understandings of his “going away” and “return”: first, his going away in death and his re-appearance three days later as risen Lord; second, his more final departure to the Father, to return only at the end of time. The section from Jesus’ instruction that we hear today focuses upon that second, much longer period of absence.

As far as the non-believing world is concerned, Jesus will simply have ceased to exist. Believers, however, will continue to “see” him with the eyes of faith and experience his presence in this way.
In loving him and keeping his commandments, they will participate in the mutual love that unites Father and Son, both of whom will “make their home” within them. Though deprived of Jesus’ physical presence, they and God will be mutually “at home” in this sense.

In this connection Jesus speaks of ‘another Paraclete’ whom he will ask the Father to give. A ‘paraclete’ is someone who stands beside a person in time of difficulty, a supportive and encouraging presence. We might think, for example, of a highly respected person whom we might ask to go to court with us to act as a character witness. Though Jesus will no longer be physically present to carry out this role, the community will have ‘another paraclete’ in the shape of the Holy Spirit.

In the face of the world’s hostility and doubt, the ‘Spirit of truth’ will offer reassurance that what they believe and seek to live by is the most profound truth.

Fr Brendan Byrne SJ

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This week’s readings speak powerfully of faith, hope and trust in God. During the coming week and for the weeks ahead, God’s word inspires, sustains and encourages us as we continue to live with the impacts of current events.

The Gospel is part of Jesus’s farewell to his disciples. Although he will leave them physically, he asks them not to be troubled, to trust in God. He invites us also to trust. We will not be left alone, but will know our Risen Lord as the Way, the Truth and the Life, and be enabled to live the way, truth and life of Jesus for others.

This weekend we also acknowledge mothers and thank them for the many ways they model the love of Christ in our lives.

We acknowledge the living culture of the Wurundjeri people, the traditional custodians of the land we stand on, and pay tribute to the unique role they play in the life of this region.


Prayers of the Faithful

Celebrant: Dear friends, built on Jesus Christ our cornerstone, we are living stones making up the house of God. From that house let our prayers arise to seek God’s blessing on our world.

Commentator: We pray for our Holy Father, Pope Francis, grateful for his humanity and leadership these last seven years: may he continue to be strengthened by the one whose merciful heart is shown.

(pause………………………we pray to the Lord)

Commentator: For mothers, grandmothers, and all who play a motherly role in others’ lives, that today will be an occasion of joy and thanksgiving, and wherever needed, reconciliation.

(pause………………………we pray to the Lord)

Commentator: For parents and teachers, that the new teaching skills they have developed will enrich the learning experience of the children in their care.

(pause………………………we pray to the Lord)

Commentator: For Fr John, Provincial of the mssp in Australia, that he will continue to recover after his recent heart attack and all those who are struggling with health issues at the moment especially all those listed in the Parish Bulletin.

(pause………………………we pray to the Lord)

Celebrant: We pray for the ancestors of the Wurundjeri people on whose land we stand, for the recently deceased Bill McLaughlin, Cahyadi Suryoko, Bevan Wilson, Leonila B. Gatus, Lino Sarmiento, Carmel Trento, Maria Stella Borg, Marianne Ricci and Pellegrino Corbo who passed away recently, Gabriel and Freda Rodericks, Basil Agapis, Lena Antao, Maria Kovacs, Elizabeth Varga, Olga Salamon, Angelina Almeida, Maria Perera, Lucia Micallef, Antonia Valletta, Rodolfo Go, Natu Portelli, Emy Saffarese, Jeff Ruthvern, Ron Gamble, Grech and Hili Families, Pio Manalo, Cristito Ocuaman and Vince Keogh, that they will be made welcome in the Father’s house.

(pause………………………we pray to the Lord)

Closing Prayer :

Celebrant: Holy God and Father of Jesus, you gave us your Son to be the way that leads to you, the truth that sets us free, and life that fills us with gladness. Keep us close to him. We ask this through Christ our Lord.

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Today’s Gospel comes from the long instruction that Jesus, according to the Fourth Gospel, gives to his disciples at the Last Supper. He reflects upon his return to the Father and what his absence will mean for the disciples.

Jesus’ “departure” seems to operate on two levels. The setting of the supper on the night before he dies makes it natural to understand “going away” as a reference to his imminent departure in death; his “coming back”, then, would refer to his appearance on the third day as risen Lord.

At another level, however, Jesus addresses a more permanent “going away” when, following his appearances to the disciples as risen Lord, he finally ascends to the Father (see John 20:17). From this perspective, his “coming back” would refer to his return at the end of time.

At this level the instruction Jesus gives does not bear upon the short space between Good Friday and Easter, but upon the indefinite “time of the Church” that will follow.

During this time—which remains our time—the disciples will not enjoy his physical presence. But Jesus insists that it will be a better time in fact. His death on the cross will defeat the grip of sin and death upon the human race, and open up for us the gift of eternal life.

Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” in the sense that his death supremely reveals the “truth” about God (that God is love) and opens up the “way” to human sharing in God’s (eternal) “life”.

Fr Brendan Byrne SJ

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A feature of the resurrection stories in the Gospels is the way in which the risen Lord appears to people exactly as they are: to the disciples in their fear, to Mary Magdalene in her sorrow, to Thomas in his doubting. The encounter told in today’s Gospel is no exception. Jesus appears to two disciples in their bitter disillusionment and loss of hope

By not revealing himself to them immediately but simply accompanying them as a fellow traveller, the Lord respects their experience, letting them tell their story to the end. Only then does he pick it up and weave it into his own instruction.

He shows them how the recent events in Jerusalem had followed the path indicated for the Messiah in the Scriptures, rather than that of Israel’s political liberation that had been central to their own messianic hope.

Captivated by this companion, the disciples constrain him to be their guest. But once indoors, a reversal takes place: they, who had offered hospitality to him, find themselves guests at a table he provides. The Eucharistic gestures at the breaking of the bread reveal him at last as risen Lord.

Instantly, he vanishes from their sight, and they hurry back to Jerusalem to share with the other disciples their experience of the risen Lord.

This wonderful story perfectly models the life of the Church. Fortified by the Spirit, the Church continues through Word and Sacrament the mission of the Lord. It walks alongside disillusioned, hurt humanity, expounding the Scriptures, and in the Eucharist provides the hospitality of God.

Fr Brendan Byrne SJ

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Thomas is one of the most clearly defined characters in the Gospels. Born loser, realist, pessimist, he has missed out on the Easter night appearance of Jesus. He won’t believe that Jesus has been raised simply on the other disciples’ claim: “We have seen the Lord”. He insists on seeing, touching, hearing for himself.

Eight days later, with divine “courtesy”, Jesus meets Thomas’ conditions exactly. But, at the sight of his risen Lord, Thomas abandons them. He, the late-comer, the obtuse one, goes on to make the most exalted act of faith contained in the gospel: “My Lord and my God!” It is Thomas, the hesitant, the doubter, who brings out the full identity of Jesus.

Moreover, Thomas’ demand to see and touch the wounds shows that the risen Lord continues to bear these badges of vulnerable love. Presumably that is why Pope John Paul II chose this Second Sunday after Easter as “Divine Mercy” Sunday: Jesus is someone to whom we can go and find understanding and mercy in a divine degree.

Jesus adds a comment that brings us into the picture too: “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe”. Succeeding generations of believers will not have the privilege of seeing the risen Lord. We have to believe simply the testimony handed down in the Church, “We have seen the Lord”. We are not at a disadvantage. We are in fact “blessed” because from us a faith greater than that of Thomas will be drawn. And it is faith that lets God’s power into the world.

Fr Brendan Byrne SJ

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Today’s Gospel begins on a disturbing note: Mary Magdalene’s discovery of the ‘real absence’ of Jesus’ body from his tomb. Later, of course, she will meet the risen Lord. But for now she can only run back, in high alarm, to Simon Peter ‘and the other disciple, the disciple whom Jesus loved’.

Her plaintive cry, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him’, expresses both the anguish of loss and continuing love. What she fears is that some human agent (the gardener, the authorities or grave-robbers) has worked this final indignity on her beloved Lord.

Things change when Peter and the other disciple arrive at the tomb. Peter enters and sees not only the linen cloths in which Jesus’ body was wrapped but also the cloth that covered his face rolled up neatly and set aside.

The ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ sees what Peter sees but but with a keener sense of faith. Grave robbers do not leave things neat and tidy. For him the absence of Jesus’ body is not due to human agency. It points rather to a majestic, divine resumption of life.

In his very anonymity (though traditionally identified as St. John) the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ stands in for all of us believers of later generations. Like him, we do not actually see the risen Lord and yet we believe. For us too, emptiness and absence need not mean failure and loss, but mysterious evidence of the divine power to bring life out of death.


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