Ascension of the Lord, Cycle B Readings

Sunday Connection

Sunday Connection

God speaks to us in many ways, including through the Sunday Scripture readings. The Sunday Connection provides useful background and activities to better understand the upcoming Sunday's Scripture readings, helping you to connect the Scripture to daily life in a meaningful way.


The Ascension of the Lord, Cycle B

Sunday, May 13, 2018


Today’s Readings


First Reading
Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11
Jesus is taken up to heaven in the presence of the apostles.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 47:2-3,6-7,8-9
Sing praise to God as he mounts his throne.

Second Reading
Ephesians 1:17-23 or Ephesians 4:1-13 (shorter form: Ephesians 4:1-7,11-13)
God raised Jesus from the dead and seated him at his right hand.

Gospel Reading
Mark 16:15-20
Jesus is taken to heaven, and the disciples go forth to preach as Jesus commanded.

Background on the Gospel Reading

(In places where the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord is not designated as a Holy Day of Obligation, the feast is moved to the following Sunday.)

Today is our liturgical celebration of the Ascension of the Lord, when Jesus was taken to heaven on the fortieth day after Easter. In Cycle B, our Gospel is taken from the conclusion of the Gospel of Mark. Scholars have long noted some irregularities about the ending of Mark’s Gospel. There is a natural break in the story line at verse 8, when Mark’s report of the discovery of the empty tomb comes to an abrupt conclusion. This verse reports that the women were so frightened by what they had seen at the tomb that they told no one. This may be the original ending of Mark’s Gospel, but it is also possible that the more complete ending has been lost.

Some manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel, written between the fourth and ninth centuries, include what scholars have termed the Shorter Ending. This is often printed in our Bibles for reference. This ending indicates that the women told their story to Peter’s companions. Scholars believe that this ending is not original to Mark. They theorize that this ending was added by copyists who sought to resolve the original abrupt ending at verse 8.

Other early manuscripts include a Longer Ending that scholars also believe was written by someone other than the Evangelist. Nonetheless, quotations from this Longer Ending are found in the writings of the early Church Fathers, and it was accepted at the Council of Trent as part of the canonical Gospel of Mark. Our Gospel for today’s celebration of the Feast of the Ascension is taken from this Longer Ending.

There are similarities in the reports of Jesus’ Ascension found in the Synoptic Gospels—Mark, Matthew, and Luke. In each case, Jesus assigns his disciples the task of proclaiming the gospel message to the entire world. There are also notable distinctions. In the Gospels of Mark and Matthew, the disciples are sent by Jesus to baptize and to preach. In Luke’s Gospel, however, the commission to baptize is absent. Instead, Jesus directs the disciples to return to Jerusalem to await the fulfillment of his promise to send them the Holy Spirit. Curiously, only the Gospels of Mark and Luke actually report Jesus’ ascension into heaven. Matthew’s Gospel concludes with Jesus’ promise to remain with his disciples forever. Only the Gospel of Mark notes that Jesus ascended to sit at the right hand of God. In noting this, Mark teaches that Jesus’ ascension affirms the glory Jesus received from God after his death and Resurrection.

Even if this ending to Mark’s Gospel was written by someone other than the Evangelist, in the commission that Jesus gives to his disciples, there are elements that are quite typical of Mark’s Gospel. The signs that will accompany belief in Jesus are as vivid as the action performed by Jesus during his ministry. Those who believe in Jesus will be empowered to do what Jesus himself has done. During his ministry, Jesus sent his disciples to preach, to heal, and to drive out unclean spirits. Now they are sent again to do these things and more. From his place with God in heaven, Jesus helped his disciples, and he continues to help us as we try to live as his followers.


Gospel Reading
Mark 16:15-20
Jesus is taken to heaven, and the disciples go forth to preach as Jesus commanded.


Making the Connection (Grades 1, 2, and 3)

For young children, certificates, trophies, and medals turn abstract ideas such as praise and honor into concrete examples. In the language used to describe Jesus’ place in heaven after his Ascension, they have the opportunity to comprehend the glory that God showed to Jesus after his Resurrection.

Materials Needed

  • certificates, medals, trophies, or other examples of honors that people might receive

 Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Bring examples of honors—certificates, medals, ribbons, or trophies—that people might receive in recognition for service or exceptional skill. Talk about why such honors might be given.

  2. Say: After his death and Resurrection, Jesus was honored by God in a special way. Listen carefully to today’s Gospel, which tells us about how Jesus was honored by God.

  3. Read today’s Gospel, Mark 16:15-20.

  4. Say: This Gospel describes how Jesus was taken to heaven after his Resurrection. How does this Gospel describe Jesus’ place in heaven? (Jesus has a seat at God’s right hand.)

  5. Say: Forty days after his Resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven. Mark’s Gospel tells us that a seat was already prepared for him, at the right hand of God.

  6. Say: Because Jesus is with God now in heaven, he can help us as we try to follow his example. We certainly have a powerful friend in Jesus. He will help us as we live his Gospel today.

  7. Conclude in prayer, asking Jesus to help us follow his example of love. Pray together the Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love.


Gospel Reading
Mark 16:15-20
Jesus is taken to heaven, and the disciples go forth to preach as Jesus commanded.


Making the Connection (Grades 4, 5, and 6)

Older children have the experience of needing a little extra help now and then from someone more knowledgeable and powerful. In a similar way, Jesus, now seated at God’s right hand, continues to assist us.

Materials Needed

  • None

 Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Ask the young people to think about a time when they called upon another person who they believed had more knowledge and/or power to help them. Perhaps they asked a parent to help resolve a conflict with a sibling or asked a teacher for help to resolve a classroom matter.

  2. Say: As we mature, we are able to do many more things on our own. But each of us, every now and then, requires a little extra assistance from someone who has more knowledge and power than we have. In some ways, we can think about the assistance that we receive from Jesus in this way. This is one of the things we remember as we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension.

  3. Say: In today’s Gospel, we hear the instructions that Jesus gave to his disciples before he was taken up to heaven. Let’s listen carefully to this Gospel. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud Mark 16:15-20.

  4. Ask: What instructions does Jesus give to his disciples? (Proclaim the Gospel to the entire world; bring people to salvation through Baptism.) By what signs will belief in Jesus be recognized? (healing of the sick; driving out demons; speaking new languages; protection from harm) Say: Jesus is telling his disciples that they will be able to do some of the very things that he had done during his life.

  5. Ask: Where does the Gospel of Mark tell us Jesus went after he was taken to heaven? (a seat at God’s right hand) Say: Forty days after his Resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven. Mark’s Gospel tells us that a seat was already prepared for him, at the right hand of God. We certainly have a powerful ally in Jesus. If we ask him, he will help us follow his example.

  6. Conclude by praying that we will remember to call upon Jesus to help us as we try to follow his example. Pray together the Apostles’ Creed.


Gospel Reading
Mark 16:15-20
Jesus is taken to heaven, and the disciples go forth to preach as Jesus commanded.


Making the Connection (Grades 7 and 8)

Forty days after his Resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven and took his place at the right hand of the Father. We can help young people see in this image the honor given to Jesus and the power that he has to help us follow his example of love.

Materials Needed

  • None

 Preparation for Sunday Scripture Readings

  1. Observe that seating arrangements can be quite important to us. Ask the young people if they have ever saved seats for others (for example, at lunch, at school assemblies, at school sporting events, at the movies). Then ask them to name examples of occasions when seating is arranged in advance (for example, at a wedding dinner; in the classroom; at professional sporting events, concerts, or the theater). Ask: Why is it important to us where we sit? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  2. Observe that seating at formal occasions is often arranged in advance and ask the young people to describe which seats are usually reserved for the person of honor.

  3. Say: Forty days after his Resurrection, Jesus ascended to heaven. We celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord forty days after Easter. The Gospel for the Ascension of the Lord uses the image of a seat to describe Jesus’ place in heaven. Let’s listen carefully to this Gospel.

  4. Invite one or more volunteers to read aloud the Gospel for the Ascension of the Lord, Mark 16:15–20.

  5. Say: How does this Gospel describe Jesus’ place in heaven? (Jesus has a seat at God’s right hand.) What do you think this tells us about Jesus’ importance in heaven? (Accept all reasonable answers.)

  6. Say: We profess this belief about Jesus’ importance in heaven when we pray the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed. When we say Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, we are not describing a physical place, but the honor that Jesus has because of the Father’s love for Jesus and approval of him. From this place of honor in heaven, Jesus continues to help us as we try to follow his example.

  7. Conclude in prayer, asking Jesus to help us follow his example of love. Pray together the psalm for this holy day, Psalm 47.


Gospel Reading
Mark 16:15-20
Jesus is taken to heaven, and the disciples go forth to preach as Jesus commanded.


Family Connection

It can be very important whom we sit next to. Any family that has tried to sit down to a family dinner or packed the car for a trip has heard children argue at least once about who should sit where. To sit next to someone, especially if that person is important, is to have a place of honor. Jesus has this place of honor seated at God’s right hand, but there’s more to this metaphor than where Jesus sits in relation to God. To be in the place of honor is also to be in a place of power. Knowing people in powerful places can be helpful. Our children remind us of this each time we are called upon to referee a conflict. Jesus, honored at God’s right hand, is a powerful ally for us.

As you gather as a family, recall a time when there was a discussion, or perhaps even an argument, about where people were going to sit. Talk about why it might be important to a person to sit in a particular place. Observe that in today’s Gospel we will learn about Jesus’ place in heaven. Read together today’s Gospel, Mark 16:15-20. Talk about what we might learn about the relationship between God and Jesus from today’s Gospel and what we learn about Jesus’ relationship to us. Observe that one of the things we learn is that Jesus continues to help us from this place of honor in heaven. Pray together the Apostles’ Creed.