For 2018 there is a renewed focus on the Solemnity of the Ascension as it returns to a Thursday celebration. Ascension Thursday is a turning point in spreading the Good News. Jesus, having preached the Gospel message of hope for three years, leading to his passion, death and Resurrection, now hands over his mission from the Father to the Apostles saying, ‘Go and make disciples!’
The Apostles – ‘the ones who are sent’, have through the generations handed on the same message to all the baptised: ‘go and make disciples!’ For each of us, we call on the Holy Spirit to give us guidance and courage so that we can continue the mission of the Gospel.
Before he ascends to his Father in Heaven, Jesus tells his apostles to return to Jerusalem and wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit; and this they did, constantly praying for Pentecost to arrive. In the Church it has been a long tradition to copy the example of the Apostles: for the nine days between Ascension and Pentecost, to pray for a coming of the Holy Spirit into people’s lives at this time.
To help focus our thoughts during these nine days, the Mission Team at the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales has produced a Pentecost Novena Booklet. This pocket-sized booklet has been produced in conjunction with the ‘Thy Kingdom Come - global wave of prayer’ for evangelisation which is happening across the world between 10th and 20th May, from Ascension to Pentecost, in the hope that that many more people will come to know Jesus Christ.
‘Thy Kingdom Come’, an ecumenical event for Christians everywhere, started in 2016, and has had a tremendous impact worldwide. In 2017, people from 85 countries were involved, with over 500,000 resources delivered to participants and many more downloaded from the website. There were more than 2 million views of the videos created for the event, and 1.65 million website page views. In surveys of participants on the effects of the event, 25 percent felt that their local church was closer as a group, 60 percent were motivated to pray more, and 40 percent felt more confident in talking to others about Jesus. There were also many comments on how ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ had been a positive influence on family and community prayer life. If you would like to join the ‘prayer wave’, perhaps visit the website where individuals and parishes are invited to ‘pledge to pray’ or record an event.
For the evangeliser, the celebration of the Ascension of Jesus into Heaven is an opportunity for a renewed sense of mission. The Pentecost Novena Booklet is a useful aid to remind us that the Holy Spirit is always with us in our mission, and indeed is already ahead of us waiting for us to tell others about the wonders of the Resurrection.
The Pentecost Novena Booklet and a range of other resources can be downloaded or purchased through the ‘Thy Kingdom Come’ website http://www.thykingdom.co.uk/
To accompany the booklet, the Mission Team at the Catholic Bishops’ Conference has also produced a series of podcasts which can be downloaded from www.catholicnews.org.uk/pentecost-novena
Deacon Adrian Cullen