In this session, high school youth look at the story of the Ascension and the meaning it has for their lives as young disciples.
7:00 p.m. Welcome, Introductions
7:05 p.m. Opening Prayer
7:10 p.m. Things that Ascend
7:20 p.m. The Ascension of Jesus
7:40 p.m. Continuing the Good News
Extend the Session: Intentions Ascending (add 20 minutes)
8:00 p.m. Closing Prayer
8:15 p.m. Announcements and Refreshments
8:30 p.m. Good Night!
Extend the Session: Intentions Ascending (20 minutes)
Give each participant a slip of paper, a balloon, and a pen or pencil. Invite them to write on the slip of paper one thing they will do in the coming week to proclaim the Good News. After they write their intention on the slip of paper, invite them to roll it up and slip it inside the balloon. Fill each balloon with enough helium so it will float upward once released.
When all the balloons are ready, invite the participants to release them and watch them ascend towards God and the heavens.
Note to Leader: In some communities, releasing balloons into the air is not permitted (due to possible conflict with small and large aircraft). Check with local authorities to determine if there is an ordinance or law prohibiting the release of balloons in your area. For information on releasing balloons and the impact on the environment, consult this website: http://www.balloonsgalorelansing.com/environment.html.
Bibles, one for each participant
Bible, pillar candle, matches or lightstick, cloth, small table, incense in fireproof container (see #1 in Prepare in Advance)
CD or MP3 player
“Shouts of Joy” by Ken Canedo (Spirit & Song, OCP)
“Now is the Time” by Tom Kendzia (Spirit & Song 2, OCP)
Latex balloons, 6” to 8”, one for each participant
Slips of paper, one for each participant
Prepare in Advance
Set up the prayer focus. Cover the small table with a cloth. On the table, place a pillar candle, a Bible opened to Acts 1:1-11.
Invite a young person to proclaim the reading for the closing prayer, Act 1:1-11.
If doing the Extend the Session piece, you will need someone to operate the helium canister to fill balloons after each person has slipped their intention into the balloon. Some participants may need help tying a knot in their balloon.
Set up tables for refreshments and sign-in. Have one or two people at the sign-in table with a check-in sheet and nametags. Hospitality is important: As the leader, do not use the gathering time before the session begins to take care of last-minute preparations. Spend the time moving among the participants, greeting and speaking with them.
Welcome and Introductions (5 minutes)
Welcome the participants. Make sure everyone has a nametag. If new people are present, invite everyone to introduce themselves. Give a brief overview of the session by saying in these or similar words:
Welcome! Tonight we are going to talk about a familiar story that occurs between Easter and Pentecost—40 days after Easter—the Ascension of Jesus into heaven—and what that story means for us today. Each time we pray the Creed we say, “he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” But how often do we think about the significance of Jesus ascending into heaven and what that meant for the disciples and what it means for us today?
Opening Prayer (5 minutes)
Good and Generous God,
After the resurrection, your Son, Jesus, showed himself to the disciples and was taken up to heaven in their sight to claim for us a share in his divine life. As we look to the Ascension for inspiration in our own lives as followers of Jesus, we ask for openness that we might follow where he leads us. We pray in your name. Amen.
Things that Ascend (10 minutes)
Invite participants to form small groups of four. Give each small group a sheet of paper and a pen or pencil. Say:
Who can tell me what the word ASCEND means?
Provide additional ideas depending on the responses received. Ascend means to move, climb, or go upward. It is from the Latin meaning to climb.
In five minutes, brainstorm as many ideas as you can for ‘things that ascend’ and list them on your piece of paper.
After five minutes, call time. Go around the room, one group at a time, asking them to call out one of their brainstormed ideas. If an idea has already been called, do no repeat the idea. Write each idea on the sheet of newsprint. Continue until all ideas have been shared. Draw some connections between the ideas shared—how smoke from incense, kites, bubbles, airplanes, voices singing, etc. all rise up and eventually leave our sight. But even though we may not see them anymore, they are still real.
The Ascension of Jesus (20 minutes)
Keep the participants in their small groups. Make sure each person has a Bible, pen, and a copy of Handout 1, The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. Introduce the Feast of the Ascension in these or your own words:
In our liturgical year, the Ascension is traditionally celebrated 40 days after Easter, which falls on a Thursday. In most dioceses of the United States, however, the Ascension is celebrated on the following Sunday. This year, we celebrate the Ascension on May 16, 2010. (Check the liturgical calendar for the date of the Ascension in future years.)
Select one person in your group to proclaim the story of the Ascension—Luke 24:46-53. Follow along in your own Bible as you hear the story told.
Allow a few moments of quiet, review the handout with the participants, making the point that when Jesus ascended to heaven, this was the end of his visible appearances since the resurrection. He has gone before us, leading the way to eternal life. While the disciples could no longer physically see Jesus, he was with them.
Invite the small groups to discuss the questions on Handout 1, The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven. After 5-7 minutes, invite the young people to share with the large group some of their answers to the questions.
Note to Leader: When in Cycle B, the Gospel reading is Mark 16:15-20; in Cycle A, the reading is Matthew 28:16-20.
Continuing the Good News(20 minutes)
Say to the participants:
We have not had the experience of physically meeting and knowing Jesus as the disciples did. Yet both they and we are called to be messengers of the Good News. It would have been easy for the early followers of Jesus to give up and let go of his mission once he was physically out of their sight. Yet they persisted and continued to tell stories of the Messiah and to encourage, welcome, and invite people to follow the way of Jesus.
We have the same challenge before us every day. How do we live as disciples, spreading the message of love to everyone we meet?
In your small groups, answer these three questions:
What compels us to continue the work of Jesus every day?
How might we “rise up” to become better bearers of the Good News?
What example(s) do we get from the disciples about how to persevere and carry on?
Allow about ten minutes for the small groups to talk and share their ideas. Then ask for volunteers from each group to share some of the responses to the questions.
Close the conversation and move toward prayer by saying:
Jesus didn’t call perfect people to be his followers. He called people who could instill hope and purpose in others by following in his footsteps—even though they may stumble along the way. The story of Jesus easily could have ended with his disappearance from the sight of the disciples. But even though they may have been afraid, may have been unsure of their ability to lead others, or may have been weak in their own faith, this did not deter them from trying.
We, too, are not perfect. We struggle to get along with others, to share our time and belongings, and to grow stronger in faith. It is the blessing of the Holy Spirit that helps us participate in the mission of Jesus to bring Good News to those we meet.
As we continue to ponder the significance of the Ascension in our lives, let us gather to pray for and with one another.
Closing Prayer(15 minutes)
Invite the participants to gather around the prayer focus. Invite a volunteer to light the incense. Wait a few moments until the incense begins to ascend, waft upward, then sing the opening song, “Shouts of Joy.”
Prayer Leader: (begin with the Sign of the Cross) O God,
As our incense drifts upwards, we are reminded of your Son’s ascension to you in heaven. May we follow Jesus into the new creation, for his ascension is our glory and our hope. We ask this through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Invite the reader to proclaim Acts 1:1-11. Allow a few moments of quiet after the reading.
In this reading Jesus gives instructions to the apostles—to witness his good news to everyone they meet. What does this mean for us today? What is one way you can witness to the Good News this coming week?
Allow a few minutes for participants to share a response with the large group. When there seems to be no more responses forthcoming, continue with the next part of the prayer.
Let us extend a hand of blessing over each other. The response to each prayer is Amen.
May God bless us today and always as we recall the day when his Son ascended into heaven to prepare a place for us. Amen. After his resurrection, Christ was seen by his disciples. When he appears as judge may we be pleasing for ever in his sight. Amen. We believe that Jesus has taken his seat at the right hand of God. May we have the joy of experiencing that Christ is also with us to the end of time. Amen. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Sing “Now is the Time.”
Announcements and Refreshments (15 minutes)
Make any needed announcements. Thank the young people for their participation. Invite everyone to enjoy some refreshments.
This session was written by Cheryl M. Tholcke, Coordinator of Youth Ministry Services and Project Coordinator of Youth Ministry Access, Center for Ministry Development, Sacramento, California.
The gather prayer in the Closing Prayer is adapted from the opening prayer on the feast day of the Ascension.
The blessing at the end of the Closing Prayer is adapted from the Solemn Blessing on the feast day of the Ascension.
The Ascension of Jesus into Heaven From the Nicene Creed:
“…he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”
From the Catechism of the Catholic Church:
“Christ’s ascension marks the definitive entrance of Jesus’ humanity into God’s heavenly domain, whence he will come again (cf. Acts 1:11); this humanity in the meantime hides him from the eyes of men (cf. Col. 3:3).” (#665)
“Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, precedes us into the Father’s glorious kingdom so that we, the members of his Body, may live in the hope of one day being with him for ever.” (#666)
“Jesus Christ, having entered the sanctuary of heaven once and for all, intercedes constantly for us as the mediator who assures us of the permanent outpouring of the Holy Spirit.” (#667)
Luke 24:46-53 (read aloud in your small group)
What do you think is significant about Jesus bodily ascending to heaven in the presence of the disciples?
What might have been some of the responses of the disciples to Jesus leaving them?
How would their work be different—and perhaps more difficult—without the physical presence of Jesus to guide them?