Readings: Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Mark 16:15-20
A time to ascend and a time to descend; a time to go to heaven and a time for a new presence among us. This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord into heaven. 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, which comes into completion with the Ascension. In the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles, as Jesus says farewell to his disciples, He also tells them that they will be “witnesses in Jerusalem… and to the ends of the earth.” The second reading from Ephesians is one of Paul’s most powerful exhortations urging followers of Christ to live in a manner worthy the call they have received. This life worthy of the call is about living the basic virtues necessary for preserving the unity of the spirit to which they have been called: humility, gentleness and patience as they serve the body of Christ through a variety of the gifts given to them.
The Gospel from Mark makes it clear that the Ascension is about witness and proclamation of peace, unity and reconciliation. The message of Christ as He ascends promises those who accept the message of the Gospel and believe, the power to drive away the demons of division and divisiveness in order to bring unity; He promises the power to speak a new language of peace not of war; of love not of hate; of forgiveness and compassion. He promises the power to heal human brokenness in order to bring about wholeness in the world. In brief, the ministry of his followers is one peace, unity, compassion, healing and reconciliation in a world torn apart by war, divisions and hatred. While the Gospel speaks about Jesus being taken up into heaven, we hear that the apostle “went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.” In the language of faith therefore, the ascension means "the entry" of Jesus into the complete and definitive communion with the Father. 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. Indeed Jesus' entry into the presence of the Father makes it possible for his Church to wait in prayer and 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 engages in the Church’s mission of reconciliation, forgiveness and transformation of this world under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, who "has put all things under his feet". While the Ascension is a time to ascend into heaven, it is also a time for Jesus to be present in a new way in the Church. So what message do we take home? 1) The message of the Ascension is indeed about the Church in its mission to the ends of the earth while the Lord continues to accompany its leaders; 2) The Ascension is about witness and proclamation of Christ’s message of peace, unity and reconciliation. 3) The Ascension is the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise of power to his followers to be instruments of peace, unity, compassion, healing and reconciliation in a world torn apart by war, divisions and hatred.
©2018 John S. Mbinda