by Fr. Tommy Lane
After Jesus’ Ascension, the disciples returned to Jerusalem and stayed in the upper room where they had celebrated the Last Supper. We read about this in the Acts of the Apostles just after our first reading today (Acts 1:12-14). Luke the evangelist, who wrote the Acts of the Apostles as well as the Gospel, tells us who was present. The only names he specifically mentions are the names of each of the remaining eleven apostles and Mary the mother of Jesus. He mentions that others were also present but he doesn’t tell us their names. He mentions by name each of the eleven apostles and Our Lady.
Since Luke mentions Our Lady by name with the apostles, I think Luke wants us to understand that in the days following Jesus’ Ascension, Our Lady was keeping the Church together. She was with the apostles praying in the upper room after Jesus’ Ascension. She was their closest link with Jesus. When Jesus was dying on the cross, and Mary and John the Beloved Disciple were beneath the cross, Jesus gave his mother Mary to be our spiritual mother and Mother of the Church as he said to Mary, “Woman, behold your son” and to John, “Behold your Mother.” (John 19:26-27) Since that moment under the cross, Mary has been our spiritual mother, Mother of the Church. After Jesus ascended, we see her exercising her role as Mother of the Church with the apostles in the upper room. Her presence alone would have been all that was necessary to assist and comfort them during these difficult days without Jesus before Pentecost. But as Mother of the Church and the one who knew Jesus best, we can imagine she had much to say about Jesus and her guidance and prayer played a pivotal role. She is the one who was keeping them all together united, preparing them for the reception of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. It was the first Novena and we can all make a Novena to the Holy Spirit during these days between the Ascension of Jesus and Pentecost. Because of those words of Jesus on the cross to Mary and John, all down through the centuries and in our own time, we regard Our Lady as Mother of the Church, interceding for us now in heaven and guiding and protecting us. A new celebration has been added to our calendar from this year (2018). On the Monday after Pentecost we celebrate Our Lady’s role as Mother of the Church. Anyone who loves Jesus would also naturally want to love his Mother Mary and Jesus would want us to do so. His mother Mary was the closest human to him, and loving her and praying to her and inviting her into our lives by praying to her would obviously be very pleasing to Jesus.
As the apostles were gathered around Our Lady in that upper room after Jesus’ Ascension, they knew that when Jesus ascended he did not leave them on their own. Jesus had appeared to them in that same upper room a number of times after his Resurrection and they could see the wounds of his crucifixion on his hands and his feet (Luke 24:39; John 20:20, 27). In the Gospel today, Mark tells us that after Jesus was taken up to heaven, he took his seat at the right hand of the Father (Mark 16:19 Year B). I think we could envisage that Jesus that ascended to heaven to take his throne at the right hand of the Father with his wounds from Calvary. We read in the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, that John saw a vision of Jesus in heaven in the form of a Lamb who had been slain (Rev 5:6,12; 13:8). Jesus the Lamb died for us, and is interceding before the Father for us in heaven. His wounds, which the apostles saw in the upper room, are between the Father and our sins, pleading for our forgiveness. The apostles, gathered around Our Lady in the upper room, knew Jesus had not left them on their own but was still with them and interceding for them in heaven. We also know Jesus is with us and interceding before the Father for us, with his wounds asking the Father to be merciful to us.
As the apostles remained gathered in the upper room after Jesus’ Ascension, they were surely conscious that it was in that very room they celebrated the Last Supper and that it was during that meal Jesus had said to them, “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood” (Matt 26:26-28) and then he said to them “Do this in memory of me” (Luke 22:19; 1 Cor 11:23-25) ordaining them his first priests. Like the two disciples who met Jesus on the road to Emmaus, they knew that the place to meet Jesus was in the reading of the Scriptures and the breaking of the bread, in other words, in the celebration of Mass. They knew that when Jesus ascended he had not left them and the place to meet Jesus now was in the Eucharist. They knew Jesus was with them. The Gospel of Mark concluded today telling us that as the apostles preached after Jesus’ Ascension, Jesus “worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.” (Mark 16:20) Jesus worked with the apostles. Jesus did not leave the Church when he ascended, he continued with the apostles. The way above all that Jesus was with them was in the Eucharist.
The apostles gathered around Our Lady during the days between Jesus’ Ascension and Pentecost remembering that Jesus although invisible was present with them, especially in the Eucharist. We gather around Our Lady during this month of May and we too know that Jesus is with us in many ways, especially in the Eucharist.
© Fr. Tommy Lane 2018
More Homilies for the Ascension of the Lord Year B
Jesus Continues to be Present
in his Church after his Ascension (Year B)
Related Homilies: Enlightened to our Calling and Destiny (Years A & C)
After Jesus’ Ascension don’t just sit there - Witness! (Year A) 2008
First reading, witnesses to the ends of the earth: Church growing through trials