In today’s gospel Jesus gives his final message, his final instructions, his final promise, and his final blessing to his disciples. It is obvious that they believed what he said because, after the Spirit came upon them at Pentecost, they went forth to do exactly as he had told them, and they discovered that all his promises were being fulfilled.
Let’s now look at the meaning of the Ascension. This Solemnity is a very important part of that unique jewel we call the Easter mystery. It is not an event in the life of the Risen Lord that is studied in isolation. Between Easter Sunday and Pentecost we celebrate that time of adjustment or change, during which the risen Jesus vanishes from the sight of his disciples, only to open up a new way of relating to them – a way so desirable that every person has the potential to be filled with his presence.
As if by a bridge spanning a river, so the disciples had now to leave the familiar bank of the natural presence of Jesus and cross to the other side – as yet unknown territory – where they will be taken hold of by the Holy Spirit.
The synoptic Gospels that is Matthew, Mark and Luke present Jesus to us from the angle of their particular purpose in writing the Good News, and from their own community background aimed at a specific audience. For example, the new Elijah has been removed from them (Luke’s Gospel), but Emmanuel, God with us, remains ever present to his Church (Matthew’s Gospel), enthroned by God in his kingdom in Mark’s Gospel.
Certainly, after his last appearance, Jesus seemed to depart from his disciples. But his invisible presence became more concentrated in depth and scope in a way that would have been impossible had his former bodily presence continued.
Thanks to the Holy Spirit, this new presence promised by the Father is established forever. Jesus uses a very beautiful way of expressing the Spirit’s presence that will come to the disciples in today’s Gospel, “Stay in the city until you are clothed with the power from on high.” Therefore, the Ascension is not a question of ’looking into the sky’, but of being confirmed believers in the Risen Lord, because He is alive and well in the ‘Galilee’ of our lives, that is in the day to day events which call us to respond to the Christ in each other.
There is something which we can easily overlook at the time of the Ascension of the Lord; notice that the gathered group, were not crying, or upset; quite to the contrary, they were filled with joy! That strongly reminds us that His Disciples believed with their heart and soul that the promises of the Lord would be fulfilled in due time. There were no questions, like when? What’s the date when we will be clothed from on high? The Disciples are examples for all times and generations, that we must be patient and have an ‘Advent expectancy’ at all times, knowing that the promises of the Lord will always be fulfilled, in God’s time.
The Ascension is that middle picture or image within a triptych, which one would see in an Art Gallery. It is a set of three associated pictures, hinged or tied together. The only way that one can understand the complete meaning is by looking and reading the pictures from left to right, thus seeing them as a whole containing three important parts. Let us pray:
O God, we believe that Jesus, the Word made flesh,
Is with you, and in us.
Strengthen our faith, hope and love that your reign
Will be proclaimed in our lives,
And the presence of your Spirit
Be manifested in our thoughts,
Words and actions.
This we ask of you through Jesus and in the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Fr Kevin Walsh
Happy Mother’s Day, Mum, with Rosie our Tibetan Spaniel, and son.
My Mum entered eternal life on the 29/12/2014. Rosie, kissed Mum on her cheek at the moment of passing…..My sister, Genny RSC and me, give thanks to God this Mother’s Day, May 8, 2016, for our Mum, and all Mums, Grandmothers and all who supply the loving dimension of the generations ahead of us, who have loved us.
Sydney Opera House