Ascension Thursday - Feast for the Laity on Mission

Many Christian churches celebrate annually “laity Sunday." The Catholic Church every October celebrates “world mission Sunday." While not in favor of continually adding special themes to Sunday feasts, I think a case could be made for linking Ascension Thursday to the mission of the laity. Why this day?

Some years ago, I asked one of my students, a religious sister, what she would say if she were to preach on the feast of the Ascension. Without a second’s hesitation, she replied: “The Ascension is God’s act of faith in us.” Yes. God the Father entrusts to us the ongoing mission of his Son Jesus Christ to share the good news of God’s love.  

On this day Jesus ascends  to be seated at the right hand of the Father. He is no longer physically present, going about doing good as he did physically during his three years of public ministry. But God in turn puts his trust in us, that  with the help of the Holy Spirit, we – the entire church of ordained and non-ordained - can carry on the work. We might call Ascension Thursday the feast of the Christian looking optimistically to the future and going out on mission.

This is precisely what  the apostles are challenged to do. In the Scripture of the day, the angels remind the apostles and us that we are not to look up in the sky (Acts 1:11). Nor, as Jesus reminded us, are we to look back, after putting our hand to the plough (Luke 9:62). And we are not to look down, downcast, as Jesus found the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. We have only one direction to look – and that is forward, looking ahead. On the feast of the Ascension, God looks to us, relies upon us, and  trusts us to be the continuing  presence of Jesus Christ in the world. Happy Feast Day!

(This year, Ascension Day is Thursday  13 May,  or  Sunday 16 May if transferred to Sunday.)

Peter Schineller, S.J.


Kate Smith
6 years 10 months ago
Thank you for writing this.     I have many difficult steps to take in the coming weeks and months, and the reminder not to look up or back or down but forward in faith is a very timely message for me!

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Ava DuVernay's "13th," a documentary about mass incarceration of African Americans nominated for an Oscar, is full of good words and bad images.
John AndersonFebruary 24, 2017
Christ embraced the most alienated region of human life: our fear.
Terrance W. KleinFebruary 24, 2017
As civil strife threatens greater disorder, a famine looms in South Sudan; Pope Francis urges intervention.
Kevin ClarkeFebruary 24, 2017
The Jesuits invite people of good will and members of Congress to call on the administration to reverse its decision the Dakota access pipeline.
Kevin ClarkeFebruary 23, 2017