Ascension of the Lord, Year A – 17
Acts 1:1-11 / Eph 1:17-23 / Matt 28:16-20
Have we ever had that experience of saying goodbye and knowing that we will not meet that person ever again? The only occasion that we can probably think of is when death separates us from our loved ones and we know that we will never see that person again, at least not here on earth.
But other than that, it may be quite difficult to imagine a goodbye that is forever. Yes, it is difficult to imagine a goodbye that is forever. But we can certainly imagine how it feels if we won’t be able to see the other person forever.
That was how the disciples felt on that day when Jesus ascended into heaven, which we are celebrating as a feast today. They already had that traumatic experience of His death on Good Friday when they thought it was all finished.
But Jesus rose from the dead and He continued to be with them for 40 days. And now He is telling them that He is leaving them for good. Though they might be more prepared this time round, still we can understand how they felt about Jesus leaving them for good.
But this phrase “leaving for good” is quite interesting, isn’t it? Obviously, it means leaving forever. So, what good can come out of that?
The final parting words of Jesus are these: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always, yes, to the end of time.”
Those final parting words also come with a promise: Know that I am with you always, yes, to the end of time. So, Jesus is telling us and promising us that He will be with us forever, until the end of time.
Our response can only be this: Yes Lord, I want to be with you forever, till the end of time. Now if that is what we want, then we will do as Jesus told us – make disciples, baptize them, teach them to observe all the commands that He gave.
Our whole life is to be centered on what Jesus wants us to do if we want to be with Him forever. And we will be given what we need as Jesus tell us in the 1st reading: you will receive power from the Holy Spirit.
Through the Holy Spirit, we will be with Jesus, and we will be able to do what Jesus told us to do. So, Jesus ascended into heaven and left the disciples for good. The “good” that He left them with is the Holy Spirit so that He will be with them till the end of time.
That “good” is passed down to us and hence, we must pray to the Holy Spirit in order to receive the power that Jesus wants to give us. Let us go back to the history of our faith.
God the Father inaugurated His presence among us when Abraham responded to Him in faith. The Nativity of Our Lord inaugurated God the Son’s presence among us when God’s self-expression became flesh and was born among us as one of us.
This Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord into heaven inaugurates the time of God the Holy Spirit’s presence among us. Jesus’ ascension into heaven opens the door to the Holy Spirit’s dwelling within those who have been baptized into the Body of Christ.
Our Lord’s Ascension into heaven challenges us to see God in a new way. Christ’s ascension is not an ending, it’s a beginning. On the surface it appears that Christ’s Ascension is a departure, but actually it is not.
Spirit-filled in His resurrection, Christ now comes to us in a new way – in His Holy Spirit. It is a new beginning. Christ in His humanity is now taken to a new status, the highest of all states of being.
Now at the right hand of the Father in the fullness of divinity, Christ comes to us in the power of the Holy Spirit – particularly in His Sacraments. He will always be with us, He will never leave us.
The cycle has now come full circle. God has come to us in Christ; God has given Himself to us in Christ; God is now at work among us again, sweeping us up into Christ’s glorious, resurrected, and Spirit-filled humanity.
Through Him, with Him, and in Him we are now in Christ’s ascended humanity returned back home to our Father. The scope of this panorama is stupendous, awe-inspiring, and really beyond human comprehension or mortal human words.
It is Mystery in the full sense of the word mystery – mystery not in the sense of reading a “Who Done It?” novel, but mystery in the sense that we are gazing into a reality that far exceeds the scope of our ability to depict it or put into words.
To be honest with you, if I were standing in that group of apostles and disciples at Christ’s Ascension I would have been dismayed. I would have been quite intimidated.
I would have thought: “Are we to lose Him again?” Timidity would have engulfed my heart and soul. But Pentecost would follow and my timidity would have been erased.
We have been intimidated – made fearful and timid because of so many things that goes on around the world. Even somethings that goes around you and your family makes you fearful and timid.
It is into this sort of world you and I live in that God sent His only begotten Son, not to condemn us but to save us. The post-resurrection message, repeated so often by Christ, is: “Fear not! I am with you. I am with you even to the end of the world.”
The infallible sign of His Presence among us is love. We can love even in a world such as ours. We do, in fact, love in a world such as ours. The power of God’s love is being made manifest among us.
You are making that powerful presence felt in your lives and in the lives of those whom you cherish. You are making the presence of the resurrected and ascended Christ real in the lives of those around you.
If there is one sentence I want you to take home with you today it is this: Everything and everyone you love is being redeemed. Those whom you love are being redeemed not just by your love, but by Christ’s love within you that reaches them.
Jesus Christ, risen from the dead and ascended into heaven is at work through you, with you, and in you. He has not left us orphans – He is here. Because of His ascension, He is here!
And when the Holy Spirit comes we will be enabled to throw off our timidity. We, filled with Christ’s gift of courage, will be able to go out in public and boldly live in the face of whatever challenges life and the people in it throw at us.
For Christ Jesus, now at the right hand of our Father, is at work in us bringing order out of chaos, meaning out of absurdity, good out of evil, and life out of death.
Jesus ascended to the Father and at the same time we are now being sent to follow the way that He has gone. It is therefore a feast where we are called upon to recognize our Christian responsibility, our calling, our vocation.
It is a celebration where we are called upon to recognize Christ as the ‘driving force’ of our everyday lives. He is giving us the task to continue His mission of love to the world.
This mission He came to fulfill with His own words and deeds, hopefully with his inspiration, will be done by us through our own words and deeds. This is the mission we still need to accomplish. Amen.