Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; Lk 24:46-53
You will receive power; you will be witnesses. On the Solemnity of Ascension, we affirm our faith in Christ who "ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father". The Ascension of Christ into heaven is to be understood within context of the Paschal mystery of Christ. It is the culmination of the Death and Resurrection of the Lord. In the first reading, the disciples fail to understanding of the meaning of Jesus going away from them. They ask Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” They have completely missed the point of Jesus’ mission and the whole purpose of his coming into the world. Having been with Jesus for three years, they still think that Jesus came to liberate Israel from the Romans. That is not why Jesus came into the world. Jesus helps his disciples to know what will happen after he is gone. “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem….and to the ends of the earth.” When they receive the Holy Spirit, the disciples will be stewards of the gospel who teach by word and living examples.
The Gospel from Luke clearly links the Paschal Mystery to the ascension. It implies a commissioning to preach repentance and the forgiveness of sins after Jesus goes up to heaven. It also means waiting patiently for the gift of the Holy Spirit. They must not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father. In other words, they must wait patiently for the Holy Spirit. In the language of faith, Christ ascends in order to descent and be present in a new way to each of us in many ways. Ascending into heaven means that Jesus Christ enters into the fullness of the Father's glory, and makes it possible for those who belong to his Body, the Church, to follow, as we pray in the preface. Indeed Jesus' entry into the presence of the Father makes it possible for his Church to wait in prayer and reflective discernment for the gift of the Holy Spirit who is God's continual presence with us. Even now, the risen Lord is ever active in the Church as she continues His mission of reconciliation, forgiveness and transformation of the world under the lordship of Christ, who "has put all things under his feet". So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) The ascension is about Jesus being present to us in a new way through the Holy Spirit. Christ ascends in order to descent and be present in a new way to each of us in many ways. 2) Ascending into heaven means waiting patiently for the fulfillment of the promise to send the Holy Spirit. 3) The ascension implies preparing to be stewards of the gospel through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
©2016 John S. Mbinda