Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord – Cycle C

Image result for the ascension painting

FIRST READING            Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11

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.”

SECOND READING       Hebrews 9  24-28, 10 19-23

It is not as though Christ had entered a man-made sanctuary  that was modelled on the real one;but it was heaven itself, so that he could appear in the actual presence of God on our behalf. And he does not have to offer himself again and again, like the High Priest going into the sanctuary year after year with the blood that is not his own, or else he would have had to suffer over and over again since the world began. Instead of that he has made his appearance once and for all, now at the end of the last age, to do away with sin by sacrificing himself. Since men only die once, and after comes judgement, so Christ, too, offers himself only once to take the sins of many on himself, and when he appears a second time it will not be to deaL  with sin but to reward with salvation those who are waiting for him.

In other words, brothers, through the blood of Jesus we have the right to enter the sanctuary, by a new way which he has opened for us, a living opening through the curtain, that is to say, his body. And we have the supreme high priest over all the house of God.So as we go in let us be sincere in heart and filled with faith, our minds sprinkled and free from any trace of bad conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us keep firm in the hope we profess because the one who made the promise is faithful.

GOSPEL                Luke 24:46-53

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.

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

Ascension!  He goes up with shouts of joy!  But why?  Why couldn’t He stay with us?  Why does He leave us even if He promises us His Holy Spirit? We need to ponder the mystery of this day and not simply accept it as something that happened.

The first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, tells us the basic outline of what happens:  Jesus is raised from the dead, He appears for forty day and then He is taken up and the time of the Spirit begins.  Jesus will return in the same way that they saw Him going to heaven.  The author of the Acts of the Apostles does not question what happens because he was living the mystery of what was happening.  That is important for us:  are we living the mystery?

Far too often we think of salvation as a sort of static reality.  Instead, it is always presented as a living reality, a living relationship with God:  Father, Son and Spirit.  Salvation is not some static cleansing of me from my sins!  Rather it is a participation in the mystery of Christ’s death, resurrection, ascension and sending of the Holy Spirit.

The second reading, from the Letter to the Ephesians, is also pretty straightforward:  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.

As we try to understand this statement from the Letter to the Ephesians, we can deepen our awareness that we are called to live in this mystery of faith.  Aspects of this mystery are completely objective and verifiable whereas other aspects demand that we believe in Jesus as God.  Hope and the power of God are not easily verified except in a life lived in pursuit of the mystery of God.

The Gospel of John brings us right back to the actual story of the Ascension of Jesus.  These are the last words of Jesus from His resurrected life on earth:  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!

We need to have this power from on high in order to preach Jesus risen from the dead and ascended to heaven.  We need to have this power from on high to preach the Holy Spirit!  The Spirit is always telling us about Jesus.  The Spirit does not give us a new message but confirms the message of Jesus and gives us power with to proclaim our faith.  Jesus Himself could have given us this power.  Instead, for our understanding of God, Jesus sends the Spirit.  The ascension leads us immediately to this:  Come, Holy Spirit!  Fill our hearts!  Amen.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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1 Response to Solemnity of the Ascension of Our Lord – Cycle C

  1. Thank you for this essay.


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