Sunday, 24 May 2020

Finding new hope in
the ‘in-between’ days
after the Ascension

The Seventh Sunday of Easter is an ‘in-between’ time in the 10 days between Ascension Day and the Day of Pentecost … confusing signs on the beach in Bettystown, Co Meath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

Sunday 24 May 2020,

The Seventh Sunday of Easter (Easter 7),

the Sunday after Ascension Day.


9: 30 am: Morning Prayer, Castletown Church, Kilcornan, Co Limerick

11.30 am: The Parish Eucharist, Holy Trinity Church, Rathkeale, Co Limerick

The Readings: Acts 1: 6-14; Psalm 68: 1-10, 32-35; I Peter 4: 12-14, 5: 6-11; John 17: 1-11.

There is a link to the readings HERE.

‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up towards heaven?’ (Acts 1: 11) … the Ascension window by Sir Edward Burne-Jones in Saint Philip’s Cathedral, Birmingham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

This Sunday is a strange ‘in-between’ time in the calendar of the Church. On Thursday (21 May 2020), we celebrated the Day of the Ascension; next Sunday (31 May 2020), we celebrate the Day of Pentecost.

In the meantime, we are in what we might call ‘in-between’ time.

It is still the season of Easter, which lasts for 50 days from Easter Day until the Day of Pentecost. But, this morning, we are still in the Easter season, in that ‘in-between’ time, these 10 days between the Day of Ascension and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the Church at Pentecost.

Following the Ascension, two angels in white robes ask the disciples why they are standing around looking up into heaven. In the Gospel account of the Ascension (Luke 24: 44-53), they return to ‘Jerusalem with great joy,’ and seem to spend the following days in the Temple.

As the story unfolds in the Acts of the Apostles, the disciples, as well as the Virgin Mary and other women (see verse 14), spend their time in prayer, choosing a successor to Judas, as we are told in this morning’s first reading (Acts 1: 6-14).

Ten days after the Ascension, they are going to be filled with Holy Spirit, who comes as a gift not only to the 12 but to all who are gathered with them, including the Virgin Mary and the other women, the brothers of Jesus (verse 14), and other followers in Jerusalem – in all, about 120 people (see verse 15).

But during these 10 days, they and we are in that ‘in-between’ time, the 10 days between the Ascension and Pentecost. Their faith persists, but the promise has not yet been fulfilled.

They wait in hope. But until that promise is fulfilled they are, you might say, transfixed, believing without doing, unable to move from Jerusalem out into the wider world.

Is this the same upper room where they had gathered after the Crucifixion, behind locked doors, filled with fear, until the Risen Christ arrives and, as Saint John’s Gospel tells us, says to them: ‘Peace be with you … Peace be with you … Receive the Holy Spirit … forgive’ (see John 20: 19-23)?

Fear can transfix, can immobilise us. It leaves us without peace, without the ability to forgive, without the power to move out into, to engage with, the wider world out there.

Sometimes, our own fears leave us without peace, unwilling to forgive, unwilling to move out into the wider world.

Fear paralyses, it leaves us without peace, and as we protect ourselves against what we most fear, we decide to define those we are unwilling to forgive so that we can protect ourselves against the unknown, so that we can blame someone for the wrong for which we know we are not guilty.

In our epistle reading (I Peter 4: 12-14; 5: 6-11), Saint Peter urges his readers to accept their ordeals and trials as sharing in the sufferings of Christ.

He reminds us that our sufferings today are brief and momentary, for God has called you to his eternal glory in Christ.

The Risen Christ tells us: ‘I am with you always, to the end of the age’ (Matthew 28: 20). But too often we are caught between Ascension Day and Pentecost, waiting but not sure that the kingdom is to come, frightened in the terror and the pain of the present moment.

Feeling powerless and fearful and not knowing what to do combine to make a deadly cocktail that not only immobilises us but robs us of hope.

But, hopefully, we can also see ourselves in the nurses, the doctors, the police, the emergency responders, who respond immediately, without considering how they put themselves in further danger … the supermarket staff, the delivery drivers, the people in communities who deliver shopping, the postal workers who check on the elderly and the vulnerable, the gardai who take smiles and verbal abuse with equal stoicism.

We can see ourselves in them. And hopefully we can see the face of God in them.

And this is our Easter hope and faith.

This is the hope that we will never lose our capacity as Christians to live with the Risen Christ, listening to his desire that we should be not afraid, and that we should love one another.

This is the hope we wait for between the glory of the Ascension and the empowering gifts the Holy Spirit gives us and promises us at Pentecost.

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

‘For the words that you gave to me I have given to them’ (John 17: 7) … Christ as the Great High Priest with an open Bible … an icon in the Church of Saint Spyridon in Palaiokastritsa, Corfu (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

John 17: 1-11 (NRSVA):

1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.

6 ‘I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.’

‘God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble’ (I Peter 5: 5) … street art in Waterford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2019)

Liturgical Colour: White (Easter, Year A)

The Greeting (from Easter Day until Pentecost):

Christ is risen!
The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Penitential Kyries:

Lord God,
you raised your Son from the dead.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

Lord Jesus,
through you we are more than conquerors.
Christ, have mercy.
Christ, have mercy.

Holy Spirit,
you help us in our weakness.
Lord, have mercy.
Lord, have mercy.

The Collect of the Day:

O God the King of Glory,
you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ
with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven:
Mercifully give us faith to know
that, as he promised,
he abides with us on earth to the end of time;
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Introduction to the Peace:

The risen Christ came and stood among his disciples and said,
Peace be with you.
Then were they glad when they saw the Lord. (John 20: 19, 20).

Preface:

Above all we praise you
for the glorious resurrection of your Son
Jesus Christ our Lord,
the true paschal lamb who was sacrificed for us;
by dying he destroyed our death;
by rising he restored our life:

The Post-Communion Prayer:

Eternal Giver of love and power,
your Son Jesus Christ has sent us into all the world
to preach the gospel of his kingdom.
Confirm us in this mission,
and help us to live the good news we proclaim;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Blessing:

God the Father,
by whose glory Christ was raised from the dead,
raise you up to walk with him in the newness of his risen life:

Dismissal (from Easter Day to Pentecost):

Go in the peace of the Risen Christ. Alleluia! Alleluia!
Thanks be to God. Alleluia! Alleluia!

‘Sing to God, sing praises to his name; exalt him who rides on the clouds’ (Psalm 68: 4) … a kite above the beach at Brittas Bay, Co Wicklow (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Hymns:

431, Lord, enthroned in heavenly splendour (Opening hymn)
518, Bind us together, Lord (Gradual)
418, Here, O my Lord, I see thee face to face (Offertory)
456, Lord, you give the great commission (Post-Communion hymn)

‘For the words that you gave to me I have given to them’ (John 17: 7) … Christ as the Great High Priest with an open Bible in an icon in the Church of the Metamorphosis in Piskopiano, Crete (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Material from the Book of Common Prayer is copyright © 2004, Representative Body of the Church of Ireland.

‘Sing to God, sing praises to his name; exalt him who rides on the clouds’ (Psalm 68: 4) … a sculpture near the beach in Bettystown, Co Meath (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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