Readings, Gospel and Reflection 29.5.2022
The Ascension of the Lord
In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days
and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with them,
he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for “the promise of the Father
about which you have heard me speak;
for John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
When they had gathered together they asked him,
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons
that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were looking on,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “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.”
R (6) God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
All you peoples, clap your hands,
shout to God with cries of gladness,
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth.
R God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
Brothers and sisters:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might:
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.
Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands,
a copy of the true one, but heaven itself,
that he might now appear before God on our behalf.
Not that he might offer himself repeatedly,
as the high priest enters each year into the sanctuary
with blood that is not his own;
if that were so, he would have had to suffer repeatedly
from the foundation of the world.
But now once for all he has appeared at the end of the ages
to take away sin by his sacrifice.
Just as it is appointed that men and women die once,
and after this the judgment, so also Christ,
offered once to take away the sins of many,
will appear a second time, not to take away sin
but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.
Therefore, brothers and sisters, since through the blood of Jesus
we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary
by the new and living way he opened for us through the veil,
that is, his flesh,
and since we have “a great priest over the house of God,”
let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust,
with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience
and our bodies washed in pure water.
Let us hold unwaveringly to our confession that gives us hope,
for he who made the promise
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Go and teach all nations, says the Lord;
I am with you always, until the end of the world.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer
and rise from the dead on the third day
and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins,
would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses of these things.
And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you;
but stay in the city
until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Then he led them out as far as Bethany,
raised his hands, and blessed them.
As he blessed them he parted from them
and was taken up to heaven.
They did him homage
and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
and they were continually in the temple praising God.
Jesus said to his disciples: “Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:46–49
And with that, the earthly mission of Jesus was completed and He ascended into Heaven. Or was it? Was His mission completed? Yes, but only in the sense that our Lord’s work of destroying death and offering new life was accomplished by His life, death and resurrection. Human nature was now invited to share in a new life of grace.
Prayerfully imagine standing on the mountain of the Ascension with our Lord. As you gaze upon Him, imagine that you were also present with Him throughout His public ministry. Imagine witnessing His many miracles, the way that He converted the hardest of hearts, the authority with which He spoke, His arrest, torture, death and then His Resurrection. Imagine seeing His hands and feet, once pierced, now radiating glory from those wounds. As you see our Lord in this way, imagine Him looking at you with love and saying to you that He has chosen to send you forth to the world to be a witness to Him and to all that you have seen and encountered. You are to go forth sharing the Good News of His life, death and resurrection with all whom you come in contact with.
First, our Lord has, indeed, shared His entire life with you. By reading the Gospels, you become a firsthand witness to all that Jesus did and accomplished. His Word is alive, and it reveals His very Person to you, just as it did to His first followers. Second, Jesus does call you to go forth and to share this living Gospel with the world. Therefore, it is important to ponder how you can do such a thing. How can you give witness to the Resurrection of Christ? How can you change lives? How can you continue the mission of Jesus Himself?
The promise given by our Lord to the disciples on the mountain of the Ascension is also a promise given to you. He is promising to send the Holy Spirit upon you so as to clothe you “with power from on high.” Only by receiving that power and using it fully will you be able to accomplish the mission that our Lord has given to you. Therefore, will you open yourself to the Holy Spirit and commit yourself to the continuation of Christ’s mission?
If we were to fully understand the mission we have received from Jesus, it would fill us with a holy fear. But too often the realization of what God wants of us fills us with an unholy fear instead. We think about evangelizing others, sharing our faith, witnessing to the truth by our actions, loving our enemies and living for the Gospel alone, and it can appear overwhelming. If that is the case with you, then know that this form of unholy fear can be dispelled so that the gift of holy fear can take its place. Holy fear is a gift of the Holy Spirit that inspires us to sense the awesomeness of God and the mission we are given by encountering it firsthand. It motivates us, encourages us and leaves us with wonder and awe. From there, this and every other gift of the Holy Spirit enables us to fulfill the unending mission of Christ.
Reflect, today, upon the particular mission that God has given to you. Prayerfully look at Jesus as He stands on the mountain of the Ascension and looks at you. As He does, let Him reveal to you not only His very Person, but also your particular sharing in His ongoing mission of sharing the Good News to the ends of the earth. Receive that mission with courage, joy and holy fear. Reverence it, savor it, ponder it and accept it. Commit yourself to this glorious sharing in the life of Christ by committing yourself to become a witness to Christ until the end of your life on earth.
My ascended Lord, as You entered body and soul into the full and glorious presence of Your Father, You handed on to your disciples the duty of completing Your mission on earth. I hear Your call in my life, dear Lord, and commit myself to the glorious task of continuing that mission on earth. Please use me as You will and fill me with power from on high so that I may help share Your saving Word to the ends of the earth. Jesus, I trust in You.