The Ascension of the Lord
Celebrating the Ascension of Jesus today, we explore the mystery of Jesus in heaven and on earth. The readings tell us of Jesus being taken up into heaven, and then taking his seat at God’s right hand. This is to describe how Jesus has been given authority above all things, reigning over both heaven and earth. He ascended as a bodily human being, thus bringing a human presence to God’s throne, where he intercedes for us with the Father. Jesus is both far above us as King and Shepherd, and intimately close to us as the human Emmanuel, “God with us.” Jesus desires that we trust him to walk with us and to guide our lives. Ascension is an occasion for us to ponder more fully who Jesus is, and how Jesus invites us to be close to him.
DIFFERENT, YET CLOSE
The feast of the Ascension is an opportunity to consider what we think of heaven, and also of earth. Both are God’s creation. What comes to mind when you think of heaven? Heaven has been depicted, by Christians and others, in many ways. These depictions are sometimes far from what the scriptures describe. In the Bible, heaven is less a place one goes after death, and more God’s space that interacts with physical creation, which is described as “earth.” Heaven is quite different from earth, yet also close to earth.
The Ascension teaches us that heaven interlocks with earth most completely in Jesus, who is both divine and human. When he ascended, Jesus began his reign over both heaven and earth. We also hear the promise of Jesus’ return, when his reign will be made complete. Heaven and earth will be fully renewed, transformed, and joined together in a new way.
WAITING ON THE SPIRIT
Having received Jesus’ final instructions, and having watched him taken to heaven, his disciples were also told to wait. Jesus had promised that they would soon be baptized by the Holy Spirit (at Pentecost), but now they must wait and prepare themselves. Together with the ultimate wait for the return of Jesus, they also needed to learn to wait in small ways. They waited for the Spirit to empower and to guide them.
Waiting is often difficult for us, the Church. We tend to move quickly, to want to take action. Sometimes we conclude that we have good ideas and plans that will make a positive difference, and so must now act. But our good ideas are not necessarily God’s ideas for us at this particular time. Often, we need to slow down, perhaps place our plans before God, and wait on the Spirit. At these times, we are learning that this is primarily God’s work, not ours. We always must receive from God, and be sustained by God, in order to share God with others.
Today’s Readings: Acts 1:1–11; Ps 47:2–3, 6–7, 8–9; Eph 1:17–23, or 4:1–13 [1–7, 11–13]; Mk 16:15–20
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