6-2-2019 Ascension Of the Lord
Jun 3, 2019
Ascension / C / 2019
Msgr. Patrick S. Brennan
We come to the important, but largely misunderstood, Feast of the Ascension—there is even confusion when to celebrate it! Most Catholics are a bit mystified by the feast: we understand Easter, we understand Pentecost, but what is this feast that falls in the middle?
Part the problem is the way this feast has been depicted in art. We see the disciples looking up, with two feet dangling from a cloud, moving into heaven. We think of it as "Jesus leaving us."
Let’s put that picture out of our minds as I give this homily—it’s distracting, and it misses the point. Jesus is not leaving us! In fact, quite the opposite.
My point in this homily is that Jesus remains, in his mission, through us, with the Holy Spirit.
Okay. So let’s look at the first reading which describes the Ascension. Through this Easter season, our first reading has been from the Acts of the Apostles—a wonderfully descriptive account of the spread of Christianity throughout the Mediterranean world.
Today, we have the first eleven verses of Acts—the very beginning of our Church. It is important to remember that Acts is chapter two of Luke’s Gospel. The first chapter is the Gospel itself, which tells us all that Jesus said and did up to the Resurrection. The second chapter tells us what Jesus continues to do through his mystical body, the Church—or, more to the point, what Jesus continues to do through us.
The Church continues the ministry of Jesus. Jesus has not gone away—he is present through us!
So, what does Luke say in that first reading today from Acts. He says that for 40 days Jesus appeared to his disciples and instructed them about the Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom is the central teaching of the Gospel—the coming of the Kingdom in the person of Jesus. The Kingdom is God’s reign on earth—even as God reigns in heaven—pulling heaven and earth together. The time of fulfillment is here. A small seed is planted now, but this seed will grow, and deepen, and spread.
Jesus asks the apostles not to leave Jerusalem but "to wait for the promise of the Father." What is this promise? The Holy Spirit—the apostles will be "baptized with the Holy Spirit." And filled with the Holy Spirit, they will continue the work and the mission of Jesus.
And we are latter-day disciples who will do the same: Jesus is with us!
Naturally, the apostles have questions about this Kingdom—but Jesus, in essence, says "stop." Don’t worry. "It is not for you to know the times and the seasons" of God. Simply know, and understand, "that you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem . . . and to the ends of the earth."
After his instruction, the Ascension takes place. Is Jesus leaving us? No. He is returning to the Father, to send the Holy Spirit—and to direct the universal Church at the right hand of God.
In the Holy Spirit, Jesus is always present with us. And we share his mission—from Jerusalem, to the ends of the earth.