Ascension Thursday |
The charge to spread the Word for the sake of Salvation
The Lord has completed His work on earth. He has entrusted to His hand-chosen band of disciples, hardly saints at the time of His Ascension, His Spirit - the Holy Ghost. Within days they will be transformed and given the grace, gifts and fruits to carry out His command in St. Mark to preach the gospel to every creature and to assure them that if they believe and are baptized they will be saved. He leaves the dire warning so ignored today, that if they do not they will be condemned. Stronger words Christ did not speak. The sad fact is that so few have heed His failsafe words.
Comprehensive Catholic Commentary
Fr. George Leo Haydock
Editor's Note: We continue with this special feature provided by John Gregory with the Haydock Commentary found at the bottom of each page of the Douay-Rheims Bible. We publish it here in conjunction with the Epistle and Gospel for the Double of the First Class Solemnity of Ascension Thursday and the first words of the Acts of the Apostles and the last words of St. Mark all treated with the cogent comprehensive Catholic Commentary penned by Father George Leo Haydock.
Epistle: Acts of the Apostles 1: 1-11
The former treatise I made, O Theophilus, of all things which Jesus began to do and to teach,
Commentary on Verse 1: St. Luke, who was the author of this history, alludes, in this verse, to his gospel, which he calls his first discourse. In that he informs us, not only of the actions, but also of the doctrines of our Savior. These words, to do and to teach, are the abridgment of the whole gospel: here he gives us the Acts of the Apostles, that is, a history of their travels and preaching. In the beginning of this work he speaks of all the apostles, and what they did before their dispersion. As soon as he comes to the mention of S. Paul, he takes notice of no one else, but is entirely taken up with the narrative of his actions. He addresses his book to Theophilus, which signifies a friend of God, or one who loves God, as if he intended to dedicate it to all the faithful, who believed in, and loved God. But it is most probable that this was some distinct person, well known to St. Luke, and illustrious for his birth, because he gave him the title of most excellent. Calmet.
2 Until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom He had chosen, He was taken up.
Commentary on Verse 2: Until the day on which, giving commandments by the Holy Ghost to the apostles whom He had chosen, He was taken up. As the Scripture was written without distinction of verses, and without any stops, or commas, (which were added afterwards) the construction, and joining of the words in this verse, is ambiguous. The question is, with what part of the verse these words, by the Holy Ghost, are to be joined. The sense might be, 1. that He was taken up by the Holy Ghost: but this is generally rejected. 2. That He gave His commandments by the Holy Ghost to His apostles; that is, says St. John Chrysostom, that He gave them spiritual commands, that came from the Holy Ghost, or from his holy Spirit. 3. The most probable exposition seems to be, that He gave His special commandments to His apostles, or to those whom He chose to be His apostles, by the Holy Ghost, or by His holy and divine spirit. Wi. - The power to preach, to baptize, to remit sins, and generally the whole commission and charge of the government of His Church after Him in His name, and with His authority; which government was given them, together with the Holy Ghost, to assist them therein for ever. B.
To whom also He shewed Himself alive after His passion, by many proofs, for forty days appearing to them, and speaking of the kingdom of God.
Commentary on Verse 3: Appearing, & c. Why did He not appear to all, but only to His disciples? Because to many of them, who did not know the mystery, he would have seemed a phantom. For if the disciples themselves were diffident, and terrified, and required to touch Him with their hands, how would others have been affected? But we know from their miracles, the truth of the resurrection, which is made evident to all succeeding generations. Perhaps the apostles did not perform miracles. How then was the world converted? This is a fact which cannot be denied, and that it should have been brought about by twelve poor illiterate fishermen, without miracles, would be the greatest of all miracles, far beyond the reach of all human means. St. John Chrysostom, Hom. i. c. 1. on Acts. - "And speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God," as we read in the Greek, and in the Protestant version, that is, pertaining to the Church, which is the kingdom of God which plainly makes for unwritten traditions. Estius.
4 And eating together with them, He commanded them, that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but should wait for the promise of the Father, which you have heard (saith He) by my mouth.
Commentary on Verse 4: And eating with them. This is a literal translation from the vulgar Latin. But the Prot. Translation from some Greek copies, would have it, And being assembled together, He commanded them, & c. Mr. Bois defends the Latin Vulgate. And even by the authority of St. John Chrysostom who doubtless understood the Greek text, as well as any one, and who takes the Greek word here to signify eating: for he observes that the apostles elsewhere prove Christ's resurrection by His eating and drinking with them. Acts x. 4. St. Jerome also says, the derivation of the Greek word, is from eating salt together. Wi.
For John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost, not many days hence.
Commentary on Verse 5: Baptized with the Holy Ghost, that is, cleansed, and sanctified by the plentiful graces he shall pour upon you. Wi.
They therefore who were come together, asked Him, saying: Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?
But He said to them: It is not for you to know the times or moments, which the Father hath put in His Own power:
Commentary on Verse 6-7: : Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? Some of them, as St. John Chrysostom observes, had still their thoughts upon a temporal kingdom of the Messias. Christ, to divert them from such imaginations, tells them, their business is to be witnesses of His doctrine and miracles, particularly of His resurrection, even unto the utmost bounds of the earth, to all nations of the world. Wi.
But you shall receive the power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth.
And when He had said these things, while they looked on, He was raised up: and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
Commentary on Verse 9: He was raised up. Raised himself up, and ascended, & c. Wi.
And while they were beholding Him going up to Heaven, behold two men stood by them in white garments.
Who also said: Ye men of Galilee, why stand you looking up to Heaven? This Jesus Who is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come, as you have seen Him going into Heaven.
Commentary on Verse 11: So shall He come, as you have seen Him going. This word going, says St. John Chrysostom, sufficiently intimates, that He ascended by His Own power: for so will He come by His Own power to judge the world. Wi. - Jesus Christ shall come on the last day, in the same body, in the same majesty, to judge the living and the dead. This He had likewise promised, in more than one place of the gospel, speaking of the vengeance, which He will exercise on the city of Jerusalem. St. Jerome, St. Hilary, and many other ancients, have believed that the Son of God will appear again on Mount Olivet, and that all people shall be assembled to judgment. St. Jerome Super Joel iii. 2. St. Hilary, super Matt. xxiv. 32. - And that same body, which thus ascended to Heaven, and which will thus descend, is given us in the blessed Sacrament. "O miracle! exclaims St. John Chrysostom, He that sitteth with His Father above, is at the same time handled by men below. Jesus Christ ascending to Heaven, both hath His flesh with Him above, and hath left it with us below. Elias being taken up, left his disciple, Eliseus, his mantle and double spirit, but the Son of Man ascending, left His Own flesh to us." L. iii. De Sacrd. Hom. 2. ad pop. Ant. Hom. de divit. Et paup. - Sulpicius Severus, and St. Paulinus, assure us, that the marks of the feet of our Savior were imprinted in the place of which He rose to Heaven; and St. Augustine informs us, that many in his time went to Judea, to venerate these sacred marks. Bede the Venerable testifies the same in the eighth age. In the time of Constantine the great, the empress Helen built a church on the place. Calmet.
Gospel: St. Mark 16: 14-20
At length He appeared to the eleven as they were at table: and he upbraided them with their incredulity and hardness of heart, because they did not believe them who had seen Him after He was risen again.
Commentary on Verse 14: At length, & c. in the Latin text, taken according to the letter, is lastly, or last of all: but if we examine and compare the four gospels, this was not the last time that Christ appeared to His disciples after His resurrection. We can only then understand it of the last time mentioned by this evangelist. - To the eleven. If this apparition (as it was the opinion of St. Augustine) was made when St. Thomas was not with them, they were only then ten, without St. Thomas and Judas. The evangelist here calls them eleven, because the apostolical college (Judas being dead) consisted of no more than eleven. And this way of speaking may be justified by diverse examples: one instance may suffice. A meeting of the Jewish Sanhedrin might be called the Council of the Seventy-two, though it many times happened that all the seventy-two were not there present. Wi. - Some think that this was the last apparition of Jesus Christ, after which He quitted this earth, and ascended into Heaven. V.
And He said to them: Go ye into the whole world, and preach the gospel to every creature.
He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved: but he that believeth not shall be condemned.
Commentary on Verse 16 Let those weep and lament who have not yet seen him, and in a short time they shall receive consolation. Blessed are they that weep, for they shall be comforted, St. Matthew v. St. Jerome - Perhaps some one will say within himself, I have already believed, I shall be saved: he says true, if his faith be supported by good works; for that only is true faith, which does not contradict in works what is believed in words. St. Gregory
And these signs shall follow them that believe: In My name they shall cast out devils: they shall speak with new tongues.
They shall take up serpents; and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover.
And the Lord Jesus, after He had spoken to them, was taken up into Heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of God.
Commentary on Verse 19 By these words it is not to be understood that Jesus is to be confined to that particular posture of body, or that the Father has any hands, or any human shape; for God is a pure, incorporeal, and all-perfect Spirit. The image of God, as He is in Himself, comes not within the reach of our mortal senses. When the Scripture, therefore, speaks of God, it uses such imagery of language as is adapted to our senses, that it may thereby convey to us some imperfect knowledge of those sublime mysteries, which are ineffable in themselves, and incomprehensible to our understanding. Thus we are informed that Jesus Christ sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty, to signify that, as man, our Lord is raised to the height of glory, and to that supreme beatitude, than which there is nothing higher, and nothing greater in the whole bliss of Heaven; and that He moreover holds the same sovereign dominion with the Father over all creatures; because, as God, He is equal to the Father in power, in wisdom, and in all perfection. See Pouget, p. 256. ed. in fol. - On the right hand of God. Jesus Christ, our Redeemer, was not man only, but truly God, the same God with His eternal Father: and hereby is signified that the person, who took upon Him human nature, and became man, is equal in dignity with the Father: He, Who, as man, ascended into Heaven. When St. Jerome says that most Greek copies wanted this chapter, he speaks not of chapters according to our present division, but only of the last 12 verses, which formerly made what was called a little chapter: yet these twelve verses must have been omitted in those MSS. by some negligent transcribers. Now they are found in all, both Latin and Greek copies. They are found in the Canons of Eusebius on the Gospels; in St. Jerome in several places; in S. Amb. 1. iii, in Luc. Tom. iii, P. 292. Ed. Paris, an. 1582, in S. Aug. 1. iii, de consensus Evang. c. xxv, tom. 3, part 2, p. 142, & c. Wi. - St. Gregory of Nyssa, (orat. 2. de Resurr.) says, that the best copies of St. Mark's gospel finished with the 8th verse, a trembling and fear had seized them: - It is the very generally received sentiment of the learned, that the last 12 verses were given by St. Mark; and the most probable reason yet offered for the omission of them in various copies is, that the transcribers followed a mutilated copy, where the last page was wanting. V.
But they going forth preached every where: the Lord working withal, and confirming the word with signs that followed.
Commentary on Verse 20: Let us here take notice, that, as the apostles confirmed their words by the signs that followed, so also in us must our words be confirmed by works. "Grant, O Jesus! that the discourses we deliver, concerning virtue, may be confirmed by works and actions; that thus, by Thy co-operation, we may become perfect in word and work; for to Thee is due the glory of our discourses and actions." Theophylactus.