Day 322: The Ascension

Introduction to THE CHURCH (with Jeff Cavins)

The Acts Of The Apostles




Main Themes:

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Acts 1:1-5 The Acts of the Apostles was written by Luke as a continuation of his Gospel and was addressed to an audience already familiar with his previous book. The author offers a very brief summary of the Gospel before continuing into the story of the early Church. 

Theophilus: A Greek word meaning “loved by God.” It could have been referring to an individual, but more likely it is a personification of the entire Christian community. (CCC 512-513)

Ch 1:3-4 Many proofs: The empty tomb and the many appearances of the risen Christ attest to the truth of his Resurrection.

Forty days: The number forty represents a period of preparation, such as the forty days and nights of the great Flood (cf. Gn 7:4), the number of days Moses was on the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments (cf. Ex 34:28), and the period Christ fasted in the wilderness before beginning his public ministry (cf. Mt 4:1-2).

Speaking of the kingdom of God: Christ spent these forty days between the Resurrection and the Ascension providing his Apostles with further instruction for their coming mission. The Feast of the Ascension is celebrated forty days after Easter. (CCC 639, 659)

Ch 1:6-11 Despite all they had witnessed and all they had been taught, the Apostles still expected Christ would reestablish an earthly kingdom for his people such as existed in the time of David. Their ignorance or lack of insight remained because the Holy Spirit had not yet descended upon them, which would happen only after his Ascension into Heaven. Christ pushed aside the question to remind them of the coming gift of the Holy Spirit and their divine mission to take the Gospel to all corners of the world. It was not Christ’s role to reveal whether the Father had any such plans for an earthly kingdom but to bring salvation to every person. (CC 474, 672-673, 1287)

Ch 1:8 The language used here (“come upon you”) to describe the descent of the Holy Spirit is similar to that expressed by Gabriel in describing how Mary would conceive the Son of God by the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:35), indicating that it is one and the same Spirit. 

Witnesses: The Greek is martys, from which “martyr” is derived; a martyr bears witness to the Faith even unto death. The Apostles would bear witness to Christ not only with their words but also by laying down their lives. 

Jerusalem...end of the earth: Sometimes referred to as the theology of geography, a blueprint for the spread of the Gospel, beginning in Jerusalem, then Judea and Samaria and from there to the entire Gentile world. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, the mission of Christ had been entrusted to the Apostles. (CCC 686, 730, 735, 857, 942)

Ch 1:9-11 In Christ’s last post-Resurrection appearance on earth, he ascended into Heaven. Only he who had descended from Heaven could ascend into Heaven. By his return to the Father, Christ took on his role of Advocate on our behalf.

Two men: Angels who announced that Christ would return.

In the same way: Christ will return just as he departed, coming down from Heaven on a cloud on the last day to act as judge of every individual both living and dead.

A cloud: In Scripture, a cloud is often a symbol of God in veiled glory. (CCC 333, 659, 661, 665, 678-679, 697)

Ch 1:12-26 Luke reveals much about the hierarchy and teaching authority of the early Church. Christ instituted the Apostles as a college or assembly with Peter at its head. Peter was clearly recognized as the spiritual leader of the Church and the Vicar of Christ on earth. He is mentioned fifty-six times in this book and is always presented in a position of authority. It was Peter who called for an election of the Apostle to replace Judas, who betrayed Christ and had since died. The number twelve symbolized the twelve tribes of Israel, and it was important for there to be twelve Apostles for the establishment of the Church at Pentecost. (CCC 85, 880, 881)

Ch 1:14 Mary, Mother of the Church, prayed with the Apostles as they awaited the promised Holy Spirit, who would teach, guide, and strengthen them. Likewise, prayerful preparation for the reception of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist, puts us in a better disposition, increasing our capacity to profit from the grace of the Holy Spirit. It is through prayer that the Holy Spirit unites us to Christ and at the same time transforms our life into the life of Christ. (CCC 721, 726, 963, 965, 1310, 2617, 2623, 2373)

Ch 1:20 Office: The Greek episkope connotes a position of lawful authority. The early Church used this to describe the office of bishop (cf. 1 Tm 3:1). The election of Matthias is the first example of Apostolic Succession. The Pope and bishops trace their office in an unbroken line to the Apostles and, thus, are their true successors. (CCC 77, 1087, 1555, 1576)

Ch 1:21-22 The criterion for choosing Judas’s successor was that the candidate had to have been a witness to Christ’s entire public ministry and to his Resurrection. The Apostles were eyewitnesses to the ministry of Christ and his Resurrection. (CCC 642, 995)

Ch 1:26 Cast lots: A manner of selection similar to drawing straws. The Apostles believed that God had already made the decision and would reveal his choice for the new Apostle in this manner. 

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

The Letter of Paul to the Romans




Main Themes:

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition 2006)

Romans 1:1-15 At the time he wrote this letter, Paul had not yet visited the Christian community in Rome. Writing from Corinth, he introduced himself as “an apostle” and declared his wish to help strengthen the faithful and win new converts by preaching the Gospel. He called himself “a servant of Jesus Christ,” because he had dedicated himself to carrying out the mission that Christ had entrusted to him. The phrase could also be translated “a slave of Christ,” which mirrors the life of Christ who, as Paul would later write, chose to take the “form of a servant” (cf. Phil 2:7) to bring about our salvation. The vocation to Holy Orders is a call to serve Christ and his Church in persona Christi capitis (“in the Person of Christ the Head). (CCC 876)

Ch 1:2-4 Designated Son of God...from the dead: Christ in his divine nature is the co-eternal Son of God. With his Resurrection and the glorification of his Body, his redemptive work and his divine Sonship would be fully recognized. 

Descended from David: Scripture had foretold that the Messiah would come from the ancestral line of King David. (CCC 445, 437, 496, 516-518, 648)

Ch 1:5 Obedience of faith: This refers to the full and wholehearted acceptance of the Gospel, the “good news” of salvation won for us by Christ. We correspond to the gift of faith, which is a light to the intellect and impulse to the will, by freely assenting to both this light and impulse. Our model for this obedience of faith is Mary, whose humble and trusting response to the angel made possible the Incarnation (cf. Lk 1:38). (CCC 26, 50-53, 142-144, 154, 494, 2087)

Ch 1:7 Saints: Paul often referred to the Christian faithful in this way. In common usage, we usually reserve this word for those who have died and have been canonized by a formal process. However, the Church recognizes the “Communion of Saints,” which includes the Pilgrim Church on earth (those faithful still living), the Church Suffering (those who are in Purgatory), and the rest of the Church who enjoy the direct vision of God (those who are in Heaven). This use of the word “saints” emphasizes the universal call to holiness, which was understood by the early Church. (CCC 946-948, 954-962, 2813)

Ch 1:8 Your faith is proclaimed in all the world: There was much travel and commerce between Palestine and Rome in the first century. No doubt Christianity was introduced and flourished at least in part through the witness of Christian travelers. Later in the letter, we will learn that Prisca and Aquila-the couple who had left Rome when the Jews were expelled by the Emperor Claudius several years earlier and with whom Paul worked in Corinth and Ephesus-were back in Rome by this time. In the same way, word spread that the Christian community in Rome was thriving. Even though he had never visited Rome, Paul would also have been known to the Roman Christians at least by reputation for the same reason. (CCC 674)

Ch 1:14-17 Greeks and to barbarians: At the time of Christ, those who spoke languages other than Greek were called barbarians. Salvation is available to both Jews and non-Jews whose faith makes them righteous, that is, accepting of God’s mercy and forgiveness that brings the promise of eternal life.

To the Jew first: Christ’s instructions were to preach the Gospel first to the Jews, then to the Samaritans, and lastly to the Gentiles who populated the rest of the world (cf. Acts 1:8). (CCC 1310, 2623, 2673)

Ch 1:17 Faith for faith: The life of Jesus Christ and his teaching form the nucleus of our faith, clarified by tradition and taught by the Church. These truths are meant to be fully lived and practiced.

Righteousness: The term refers both to God’s fulfillment of his promises to Israel and to the gift of grace that allows persons to enter into a loving relationship with God through Jesus Christ. (CCC 1814)

Ch 1:18-32 To exemplify the opposite of righteousness, Paul described the immoral lifestyles of the ancient world. The existence of God is readily knowable through natural means because God reveals himself through his creation. Nevertheless, they mainly ignored the Revelation of God in creation and, thus, rejected God and made themselves idols to worship. It followed that they ignored any semblance of objective morality. Perverse sexual practices, hateful dispositions, and violent behavior characterized the lives of a significant portion of the population. Those who have faith in God bear some responsibility for the spread of ignorance of God and a lack of objective morality due to their failure to more perfectly reflect the sanctity of Jesus Christ. (CCC 398, 404-406, 2087, 2125)

Ch 1:19-23 God wants to reveal his truth to every individual. A preamble to the fullness of the truth contained in the Gospel is implicit Revelation of the existence of God through creation. Moreover, God inscribes the heart of every human person with a knowledge of the natural law, which grants us a natural ability, within the reach of human reason, to differentiate good from evil.

Minds were darkened: Habitually consenting to and continuing in sin has a deleterious effect upon our free will and our ability to discern right and wrong. The intellect and heart can become so corrupted that we become enslaved to sin. (CCC 32-34, 287, 1147, 1776, 1954)

Ch 1:24-25 God gave them up: God does not force his grace and mercy upon any person out of respect for our free will. When sinners persist in sin by rejecting the objective moral law written on their hearts, God allows them to remain in the state they have chosen.

Exchanged the truth about God for a lie: The Catholic Church was established by Christ, and it is the will of God that all people be united in this communion. The Church is the Sacrament of Salvation, the conduit of God’s grace through which all-even those who are not formally members of the Church-receive redemption. While divisions between theological and doctrinal differences exist between the Catholic Church and other Christian churches and communities, the Church recognizes a strong commonality in many beliefs. Even among non-Christians, the Church shares solidarity in certain shared beliefs and in our common origin and destination as fellow members of the human race. (CCC 841-845)

Ch 1:26-27 Dishonorable passions: Included are all sexual relations outside of marriage. The descriptions in these verses may cover more than one type of perverse sexual behavior, but stated explicitly among these are homosexual acts. The Church does not profess to know the cause of homosexual inclination, but the moral issue remains the same regardless of its origin. Homosexual, or same-sex, attraction-though not sinful-is objectively disordered in that these inclinations do not tend toward sexual complementarity, which is ordered to the unity of the spouses and the procreation of new life. Homosexual acts, on the other hand, are always intrinsically disordered and gravely sinful. The Church recognizes that persons who suffer same-sex attraction often endure it as a heavy cross to carry. She invites persons with homosexual inclinations to live self-denial, pray, stay close to the Sacraments, and remain active in the Church as they seek a life of chastity. (CCC 1768-1775, 2357)

Ch 1:28-32 Approve those who practice them: Lacking a sound moral conscience, the pagans would find such sinful behaviors quite acceptable. This attitude tacitly encourages sin. (CCC 1777, 1852)

(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)

Act 1: Witnesses in Jerusalem 

The “Acts” of the Apostles 

Apostolic Office 

(*Walking With God: A Journey Through The Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)

Key Event 65: Ascension (Luke 24:44-53; Acts 1:6-11)

Jesus' Ascension marks his definitive enthronement at the right hand of the Father, fulfilling the vision of Daniel, in which the Son of Man ascends to the "Ancient of Days" and receives everlasting dominion (see Dan 7:13-14; CCC 664).  Christ's kingdom began with his coming, is now present in the Church, and will reach its fulfillment when he returns in glory.

Key Event 66: Witness in Jerusalem (Acts 1:1-8:4)

The Acts of the Apostles tells how the first Christians are filled with the Holy Spirit in accord with Jesus' promise.  They boldly witness to the Good News of Jesus Christ in three distinct waves: first in Jerusalem, then in Judea and Samaria, and finally to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).  As a result of the initial evangelization in and around Jerusalem, many thousands become believers (Acts 2:41, 47; 4:4; 5:14).

Prayer by Fr. Mike: “Father in Heaven we thank you so much. We give you praise. Thank you not only for this new day. Thank you for this new age, this new step we’re taking in the age of the Church, the age in which we are living currently, that we’re hearing described in these first chapters of the Acts of the Apostles and the first chapter of the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans. We thank you, Lord God, not only for your Son, and for salvation, we thank you for the Holy Spirit that dwells inside of us and enables us not only to pray but also to hear your word and let it transform our hearts. We ask you, Lord, to please come and fill us with your Holy Spirit, just like the Apostles gathered together, united with each other, and united with Mary. We ask you to send your Holy Spirit upon us, this day, that we can be filled with your Spirit, so we can bring your Gospel, and bring YOU. YOU, we want to bring YOU, Lord, to the world. We make this prayer in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”