A Broken Promise or A Dream Fulfilled?

Fr.John white

The Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord: Year B

Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9
Ephesians 1:17-23
or Ephesians 4:1-13
Mark 16:15-20

A Broken Promise or A Dream Fulfilled?

The event of the Ascension of the Lord must have been filled with tremendous emotions.  The early disciples had witnessed the risen Lord Jesus with their very eyes.  Even though many had failed to stand by him at the cross, his risen presence among them restored what had been broken.  These disciples must have been overwhelmed with joy at seeing Jesus in his risen state.  It becomes very close from the post resurrection experiences that Jesus is fulfilling the prophecy of the scriptures.  After his public ministry is transformed through his death and resurrection, Jesus commissions his followers to carry on the redemptive and salvific work that had begun.  In today’s gospel the disciples are told to go into the whole world, proclaim the gospel, and to bring others to salvation through baptism.

When Jesus commissions the disciples with this ongoing mission, he is taken up into heaven.  One could wonder how the disciples must have felt.  They had seen with their very eyes the promise of God had been realized.  However, did this mean that this promise disappeared when Jesus was taken away once again?  Their grief must have been significant.  As we continue on the story we realize that the dream of God to bring humanity to salvation continues through the work of the early disciples.  The preaching of the gospel continued, accompanied by signs and miracles.  Even though Jesus was taken away bodily, he remained with the disciples spiritually to continue the work he had begun.

Ascension 512px-Dosso_Dossi_022The Ascension of the Lord is very significant for the Church today.  The coming of Christ did not mark an end to the world but a beginning of goodness.  Jesus continues to commission us to preach the gospel and make evident his presence in the world today.  Jesus is now seated at the right hand of the Father waiting for us when we reach our journey’s end.  Do we live in this expectation?  To believe in Jesus Christ and the good news he proclaimed is not just a cognitive process, it is a way of life.  The ministry of Jesus taught the world to embrace the reality of unconditional love.  Jesus’ teaching and example shows how we can redeem our lives by living in right relationship with ourselves, others, and God.  It is the choices that we make today that bring us to the promise of tomorrow.  Christ shows us how God’s dream for humanity is to live holy and sinless lives.  Holiness brings us to the threshold of eternal life and to where Christ is seated.  The holiness to which we are called is not to be confused with pious or religious practices.  Such practices should be symptomatic of the lives that we lead.  Holiness comes from loving the Lord our God with our minds, hearts, soul, and strength, and loving our neighbors with the selfless love that Christ engaged himself in.  It is such love and commitment that inherits for us eternal life.  Jesus continues to be with us on our journey of faith and in our experience of Church.  Jesus’ presence is made known in our tangible acts of kindness and charity.  Jesus is present when we gather in his name and act of our love.  Jesus is our spiritual companion on life’s journey!

Image: “The Ascension” by Dosso Dossi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Prayer

We pray: Lord Jesus, send us your Spirit to encourage us in our faith.  May we recognize that even though you are seated at the right hand of the Father, you are still with us.  Help us to reverence your presence in the Eucharist by listening faithfully to your Word and in the breaking of the bread.  Let us also reverence you by respecting the dignity of one another.  Whenever our journey reaches its end, may we come to your throne and return the gift of our lives well lived.  Amen.

Questions

How does the Ascension of Jesus offer you hope?
What did Jesus commission his disciples to do?
Do you accept the commission to take the gospel into the world?
What are some of the challenges you encounter in trying to proclaim the gospel message?
How does the gospel message enlighten your mind?
In what ways do you allow the message of Jesus to shape your consciousness politically and socially?
How does the wisdom of Jesus Christ transform your relationships?
Where do you encounter Christ in your life?
Do you spend enough time in prayer discerning God’s will for you?

Wisdom of the Fathers

“Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him… For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies…

Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unite us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love.

He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he went up again into heaven. The fact that he was in heaven, even while he was on earth, is borne out by his own statement: No one has ever ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven.

Out of compassion for us he descended from heaven, and although he ascended alone, we also ascend, because we are in him by grace. Thus, no one but Christ descended and no one but Christ ascended; not because there is no distinction between the head and the body, but because the body as a unity cannot be separated from the head.”

— St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A) Homily on Ascension

 

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