“And Behold I Am with You until the End of the Age”

Ascension - by Benjamin West

With these words of comfort and hope, Jesus leaves the disciples and returns to his heavenly Father.  The Ascension of our Lord captures the dramatic end to Jesus’ time on earth with his apostles.  They are gathered on the mountaintop and he commands them to “go and make disciples.”  Jesus instructs his followers to preach and teach, to call all people to an experience of the Risen Christ.   As if anticipating their fear of working without Jesus by their side, Our Lord assures them – and us – of his presence, albeit, in a whole new way.

Jesus remains with us through the power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts.  In his words before ascending to glory, Jesus is both preparing his apostles for the coming of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost – ten days later – and assuring them that they will have the power they need to act in his name and in the name of the Church that is to be born on that day.

The Holy Spirit works in the Body of Christ as a whole, and his warmth and love are directed also to each individual Christian, making us a new creation.  With personal concern, he wishes to sanctify and lead each of us to the perfection of charity.

This is the Holy Spirit at work.  The process of becoming holy begins at baptism, when the Spirit begins to dwell in the soul, to endow it with sanctifying grace, to implant in it faith, hope, love, and the special gifts of the Spirit.  What is purely temporal, tied to this earth and limited to the confines of the flesh gives way to a new fullness and richness that can only be described as a new life, the life of God welling up within us.  If it is nurtured and cared for, that new life will know no end.  Confirmation completes this Christian initiation, strengthening us for the mission and preparing us for ongoing growth in the faith.

Some spiritual writers and theologians call this the age of the Spirit.  They refer to the fact that from the ascension of Christ into glory until his return to judge the living and the dead, the mission of building his kingdom and manifesting his saving love has been entrusted to us.

As we move toward the celebration of Pentecost and in this year in particular, when the archdiocese completes the work of our Archdiocesan Synod, we pray especially that the Holy Spirit lead us in manifesting God’s kingdom in our parishes, schools and institutions.  Praying the Pentecost Novena is one way to ask for this guidance, and I invite you to do so with our archdiocese in mind.

The Pentecost Novena is the oldest novena in the Church and it is prayed precisely during this period between Ascension and Pentecost.  It has its roots in Jesus’ command to his apostles to go back to Jerusalem and pray together and await the coming of the Spirit.  It is the only novena still prescribed by the Church.  It is a commitment to pray for nine days to be renewed and invigorated by the Spirit that lives within us, to be open to the Sprit prompting us to share our faith with others, to share the love we have for the Risen Lord.

I invite you to join me in praying this novena by visiting this site each day between now and Pentecost and asking the Holy Spirit for the grace that gives gladness and energy to the Church, fulfilling the Lord’s promise to remain with us always.