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Solemnity of the Ascension

May 21, 2023

Today’s Invitation

Today, we invite you to explore the Feast of the Ascension while examining the theologian and Jesuit priest Ignacio Ellacuría’s understanding and commitment to reality and our engagement with it; engage with the Catholic Social Teaching on solidarity; and embody these ideas with the example of the University of Central America (UCA) as a model of an institution that has devoted itself to the demands of justice.

Commentary by Sónia Monteiro

Solemnity of the Ascension

Reading 1

Acts 1:1-11

In my earlier account, Theophilus,
I dealt with everything that Jesus had done and taught,
from the beginning until the day he was taken up,
after he had given instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen.
After the Passion, Jesus appeared alive to the apostles —
confirmed through many convincing words —
over the course of forty days, and spoke to them about the reign of God.

On one occasion, Jesus told them not to leave Jerusalem.
“Wait, rather, for what God has promised, of which you have heard me speak,” Jesus said.
“John baptized with water, but within a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
While meeting together, they asked, “Has the time come, Rabbi?
Are you going to restore sovereignty to Israel?”

Jesus replied,
“It is not for you to know times or dates that Abba God has decided.
You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down upon you;
then you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria,
and even to the ends of the earth.”

Having said this, Jesus was lifted up in a cloud before their eyes
and taken from their sight.
They were still gazing into the heavens
when two messengers dressed in white stood beside them.
“You Galileans — why are you standing here looking up at the skies?” they asked.
“Jesus, who has been taken from you — this same Jesus will return,
in the same way you watched him go into heaven.”

Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 47

Response: Our God ascends to the judgment seat with shouts of joy:
A blare of trumpets for Our God.

All you people, clap your hands; / raise a shout to God with a triumphant note.
For the Most High is awe-inspiring, /glorious over the whole earth.
R: Our God ascends to the judgment seat with shouts of joy:
A blare of trumpets for Our God.

God has ascended with a shout, / with trumpet peals.
Sing praise to God, sing praise, / sing praise to God, sing praise.
R: Our God ascends to the judgment seat with shouts of joy:
A blare of trumpets for Our God.

For God is Most High over all the earth, / sing praise to God, sing praise.
God rules over all the nations; / God sits upon the holy judgment seat.
R: Our God ascends to the judgment seat with shouts of joy:
A blare of trumpets for Our God.

Reading 2

Ephesians 1:17-23

I pray that the God of our Savior Jesus Christ, the God of glory,
will give you a Spirit of wisdom and of revelation,
to bring you to a rich knowledge of the Creator.
I pray that God will enlighten the eyes of your mind
so that you can see the hope this call holds for you
— the promised glories that God’s holy people will inherit,
and the infinitely great power that is exercised for us who believe.
You can tell this from the strength of God’s power at work in Jesus,
the power used to raise Christ from the dead and to seat Christ in heaven
at God’s right hand, far above every sovereignty, authority,
power or dominion, and above any other name that can be named
— not only in this age but also in the age to come.
God has put all things under Christ’s feet
and made Christ, as the ruler of everything,
the head of the church, and the church is Christ’s body;
it is the fullness of the One who fills all of creation.


Matthew 28:16-20

The Eleven made their way to Galilee,
to the mountain where Jesus had summoned them.
At the sight of the risen Christ they fell down in homage,
though some doubted what they were seeing.
Jesus came forward and addressed them in these words:
“All authority has been given me both in heaven and on earth.
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations.
Baptize them in the name of Abba God,
and of the Only Begotten, and of the Holy Spirit.
Teach them to carry out everything I have commanded you.
And know that I am with you always,
even until the end of the world!”

The Inclusive Lectionary © 2022 FutureChurch. All rights reserved. 

The inclusive language psalms:
Leach, Maureen, O.S.F. and Schreck, Nancy, O.S.F., Psalms Anew: A Non-sexist Edition
(Dubuque, IA: The Sisters of St. Francis, 1984).
Used with permission.



Our Responsibility to Reality

On this day, the Church celebrates the Feast of Ascension, known as the moment in which Jesus Christ “ascended into heaven,” and commonly accepted as one of the most important events that marked the beginning of the Church. Today’s readings invite us to consider three things: 1) that God has given us a unique role as stewards of God’s reign; 2) that role is intrinsic to the power of the Spirit that dwells in each one of us; and 3) the connection of these two moments, i.e., the gift of the Spirit and the commission of the disciples, marks the beginning of the Church. This has profound implications on how we perceive the Church. At the womb of the Church, we do not find the farewell of Jesus, nor the election of a leader, nor even the institutionalization of a group. Both Luke and Matthew connect the raison d’être of the Church with its mission, with the building up of the Reign of God that impends over those who follow Jesus. 

Yet, the disciples were confused and slow to understand Jesus’s words. They continued asking when Jesus would restore the Reign of Israel. However, the restoration of the Reign of God cannot be seen as a one-time event that would come from above and would radically change everything. “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” Asked the two men dressed in white garments. According to Luke and Matthew, the restoration of the Reign of God depends primarily on how we live out the mission that has been entrusted to us in the life of the Spirit. In other words, the Reign of God depends on how we look not at the sky, but at the reality.

Ignacio Ellacuría (1930-1989) was a Spanish-Salvadoran Jesuit priest. He is a renowned theologian and philosopher who helped to lay out and solidify the philosophical basis of the Latin American movement of liberation theology. He became the president of the University of Central America (UCA) and was able to create a “different kind of university” that has been actively engaged with the social reality. Ellacuría assumed a central role shaping not only the vision of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in Central America, but also the role of the Church in Latin America. He became what we could call a “mystic with open eyes,” committed to God’s love for the world, and in particular to bringing the crucified people down from the cross. Ellacuría was murdered in 1989 – along with five other Jesuits with whom he lived, their housekeeper and her daughter – by members of the Salvadoran army.

‘Historical reality’ is a central category to Ellacuría. Love That Produces Hope: The Thought of Ignacio Ellacuría, edited by Kevin F. Burke and Robert Lassalle-Klein, reads: “An adequate knowing of things as elements of historical reality must go far beyond an observation and description of realities from the outside.” Rather, such knowing must include “a being in the midst of the reality of things” (156). The more one delves into the depths of reality and embraces it, the more one will be open to the possibility of an encounter with the other and with the Divine. 

In “Laying the Philosophical Foundations of Latin American Theological Method (1975),” Ellacuría explains how this encounter with reality encompasses three dimensions. The first dimension, ‘becoming aware of the weight of reality’ requires an honesty in the face of reality and, thus, a respect of the truth of God’s presence in that reality whether that reality be one of grace or sin. This implies not only attentiveness to reality, but also a call to oppose those forces that disfigure that reality and dehumanize women and men. The second dimension, ‘shouldering the weight of reality’ demands a necessary ethical commitment. Finally, ‘taking charge of reality’ leads to action that seeks transformation. For Ellacuría, “no real change of meaning occurs without a real change of reality” (81).

During the Feast of the Ascension, we should not only recall Jesus’ farewell, but also make memory of the great commission through which we are called to embrace our reality in the light of the Spirit. 

Commentary by Sónia Monteiro

Sónia Monteiro is a doctoral candidate in systematic theology and a Senior Teaching Fellow for the 2022-23 academic year at Fordham University. Her research interests include Christology, Political Theology, and Ignatian Spirituality. Before coming to New York, Sónia worked as a lawyer in Portugal. She also spent a few years working with local communities in Angola. Sónia is an active member of The Grail, an international and ecumenical movement of lay women from diverse backgrounds.

Engage Catholic Social Teaching


Each circumstance of time and space calls for adequate gestures and actions of solidarity. Those represent the ‘praxis of discipleship’ under the guidance of the Spirit. However, we will only be able to understand and commit to those gestures if we embrace and confront our reality. In other words, the commitment to the historical reality described by Ellacuría is a precondition for solidarity to happen. Otherwise, the Catholic teaching about solidarity would be reduced to an abstraction.

According to the Catholic Teaching, solidarity is not optional. The Papal encyclical, Laudato si’ (2015) says it is “a basic question of justice” that requires a committed attentiveness to those who are suffering, who are ignored and marginalized, as well as concrete gestures that help to eliminate any form of inequality, discrimination, or abuse (159). To some extent, we can interpret the commission of those who have chosen to follow Jesus as ideally a Christian embodiment of solidarity. 

This solidarity extends to all creation and should not be understood apart from our responsibility towards creation. As Pope Francis, emphasizes in Laudato si’, everything is interconnected and “this invites us to develop a spirituality of global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity” (240). The way we choose to live, our decisions, the structures and institutions that shape our societies impact not only the quality of life, but also the environment. Our failure to be in solidary with one another represents a failure before the entire creation (142). Building on what Saint John XXIII wrote in  his encyclical Mater et magistra, On Christianity and Social Progress (1961), poverty is the symptom of a more profound ‘disease,’ “the lack of effective solidarity” among people (157).


A Contemplative Exercise

We usually tend to pick quiet and more isolated places to meditate. This time, I would like to invite you to meditate “amidst the reality of things.” This week, choose a moment amidst the hustle and bustle of your day or routine to engage with your own reality. It can be during a class you teach (perhaps, you can find a moment while students are doing group work); it can be in the traffic on your way home or in the subway, train, streets during rush hours…Try to be fully present to that reality already inhabited by the Divine Spirit.

A Community

José Simeón Cañas Central American University

José Simeón Cañas Central American University (UCA) is Jesuit university in El Salvador created in 1965. It became a prestigious university in Latin America not only because of the quality of its research and learning, but also due to its innovative pedagogical methods that prepare students to become deeply committed to social change. Ignacio Ellacuría was the rector of this university during the 1980s. 

For Ellacuría, the university is inevitably a social force and should use its power “to transform and enlighten the society in which it lives” (Commencement Address Santa Clara University). This critical and creative social consciousness, which called to a solidarity with the poor and the oppressed in El Salvador, became the central mission and unambiguous criterion of the university’s decision process. This can be seen in their research work, publications, public initiatives, programs, teaching, development of public policies, etc. In fact, the university played an important contribution to the peace accords that were celebrated after the Salvadoran civil war. The UCA has set an example of a university opened to its reality and called to respond directly to the social and political challenges, always in solidarity with the poor.


Christ of Saint John of the Cross by Salvador Dali

Christ of Saint John of the Cross, Salvador Dali, 1951.

Image description: Against a dark background, we look down at Jesus hanging on the cross. Below him is earth and sky.