The second reading for the feast of the Ascension (which was actually on Thursday, but celebrated on Sunday) is beautiful.
I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. ~ Ephesians 1:17-23
Sometimes, Paul's sentences seem to run forever and are more easily understood when broken down into smaller parts. This first part of this reading is actually a prayer - a request for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit - and it is appropriately a Mass reading on this feast of the Ascension. Simplified, it might read this way in contemporary English.
May God the Father of Our Lord Jesus Christ give you the Holy Spirit Whose wisdom and revelation will give you full knowledge of Him. May the Holy Spirit enlighten the eyes of your heart so that you know these things:
- The hope to which He has called you
- The riches of His glorious inheritance
- The infinite greatness of His power for us who believe
Then Paul wants to show us this power of the Holy Spirit. He has such effectiveness of power that three things were accomplished for Jesus through Him.
- He raised Christ from the dead at the Resurrection.
- He exalted Christ at the Ascension to THE place of honor in heaven both now and forever. This place of honor is far above every law and authority, far above every power and dominion, and far above every title.
- He placed all things under Christ Who He appointed Head of the Church which is His Body and the fullness of Him Who completes all things.
Christ is the firstborn from the dead. This is the hope to which He calls us:
- To rise with Him on the last day as we have risen with Him through Baptism, into His death
- To a place of honor in heaven
- To union with Christ as members of His Body, so that we attain the fullness of who we were intended to be, in Him.
These are the riches of His glorious inheritance and they are meant to also be ours through His power.
The third chapter of Ephesians contains another beautiful prayer which, in some ways, is similar to the first one. Paul does not want the people of the Church of Ephesus to lose heart and so he prays for them in his letter.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, for ever and ever. Amen. ~ Ephesians 3:14-21
Paul kneels before the Father who has given us His name through adoption and he prays for the members of the Church that we may not to lose heart. His hope is:
- That we may receive into our hearts the strength of the Holy Spirit according to the generosity of the Father
- That we may experience Jesus Christ dwelling in our hearts through faith according to the generosity of the Father.
- That rooted and grounded in love, we may comprehend and know the immeasurable love of Christ that goes beyond knowledge so that we are filled with the fullness of God.