Week After Ascension

Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!

The Catechism provides an excellent summary of what we've explored so far related to peace in the Church:

The Kingdom of God lies ahead of us. It is brought near in the Word incarnate, it is proclaimed throughout the whole Gospel, and it has come in Christ's Death and Resurrection. The Kingdom of God has been coming since the Last Supper and, in the Eucharist, it is in our midst. The kingdom will come in glory when Christ hands it over to his Father... (2816)

This already-but-not-yet character of the kingdom was already evident on the day of the Ascension. Jesus promises that he will always be with his disciples despite his apparent absence, and the angels proclaim Christ's return mere minutes after he had gone:

“Men of Galilee, 
why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” — Acts 1:11

But what are we supposed to do about all this? At the end of the day, we follow the Risen and Ascended Lord ever more closely so his peace and his kingdom will reign in our hearts. We do so by listening to the Sacred Scriptures, worshiping Christ in the Blessed Sacrament, preaching the Gospel to those around us, welcoming the Holy Spirit into our hearts, and using the spiritual gifts he has given us to serve the Church and the world. In short, we live our lives infused with the hope of the kingdom, constantly looking forward to Christ's 
Second Coming to give us the strength to build his kingdom in the here and now.
This attitude, this way of being, can be summed up in one word: "Maranatha!" St. Paul used this Aramaic word at the end of his First Letter to the Corinthians, and it was probably used in the early Christian liturgy. The Greek equivalent is used at the end of the Book of Revelation, where it is translated, "Come, Lord Jesus!" With every fiber of our being, we Christians long for the coming of the Lord. This longing is the motivation for our worship, our service, and our ordinary tasks in a world that can often seem pointless and hopeless.

When the aged St. John the Evangelist had been exiled, the Lord appeared to him and gave him a vision of his glorious return. We, too, can draw encouragement and inspiration from this Revelation of the kingdom:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth... I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, God’s dwelling is with the human race. He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them as their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, for the old order has passed away.” The one who sat on the throne said, “Behold, I make all things new.” — Revelation 21:1, 3-5

We live in hope that Jesus will return to wipe away sin and death, establishing the eternal peace of his kingdom. Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian service, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with weapons of self-restraint.

This collect prayer begins the Mass for Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. Jesus is calling us to "take up battle against spiritual evils." We'll explore fasting itself in a few weeks; during the week of Ash Wednesday, we're going to dig into an important set of weapons the Lord gives us to fight evil: sacramentals.

What's a sacramental? Well, if you attend Mass on Ash Wednesday, you're probably going to receive one on your forehead.