Ascension of the Lord
Today we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus to the Father in Heaven. There is an air of finality about today’s festival but as we know it was end and a beginning. Our focus is on the retelling of a story declaring that Christ has returned to the Father, and so we think of it as the ‘end’ of the Christ event or the ‘end of Easter’ – in times past there was a custom of extinguishing the Paschal Candle after the gospel to signify: ‘he is gone’. That said he is gone but at the same time we believe that he is truly here with us. The ascension was an end As well as a beginning. While it was the end of Jesus’ physical presence with his beloved disciples, it marked the beginning of Jesus’ presence with them in a new way. Jesus promised that he would be with them always to the end of time (Matthew 28:20) and he is with us too in the Eucharist, that is also called the real presence of Jesus in the blessed Sacrament. Now as the glorified and risen Lord and Saviour, Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, and he promised to send the Apostles the Holy Spirit who would give them his power on the Feast of Pentecost.
Why did Jesus leave his disciples forty days after his resurrection? Forty is a significant number in the scriptures. Moses went to the mountain to seek the face of God for forty days in prayer and fasting. The people of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years in preparation for their entry into the promised land. Elijah fasted for forty days as he journeyed in the wilderness to the mountain of God.
For forty days after his resurrection Jesus appeared numerous times to his disciples to assure them that he had risen indeed and to prepare them for the task of carrying on the work which he began during his earthy ministry. When the Lord Jesus departed physically from the apostles, they were not left in sorrow or grief. Instead, they were filled with joy and with great anticipation for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ last words to his apostles point to his saving mission and to their mission to be witnesses of his saving death and his glorious resurrection and to proclaim the good news. As I have said before I wonder what those same apostles would say if they realised that 2012 years later we in our own time would be writing and talking about the ascension of Jesus their friend and ours .Their task in their time was to proclaim the gospel – the good news of salvation – not only to the people of Israel, but to all the nations. This is also our task to proclaim the good news of salvation to those around us by what we say, and how we live as Christian and Catholic people.
We remember that God’s love and gift of salvation is not reserved for a few or for one nation or one particular person alone instead gods salvation is for the whole world – for all who will accept it. Today as we celebrate the Ascension let us pray that we proclaim the good news of that Jesus is with us in our lives and daily living to those around us by what we say, and how we live as Christian and Catholic people. The gospel is the power of God, the power to release people from their burden of guilt, sin, and oppression, and the power to heal, restore, and make us whole. Do we believe in the power of the gospel in our lives in 2012? All believers are given a share in this task – to be heralds of the good news and ambassadors for Jesus Christ. Next Sunday we celebrate the feast of the coming of the Holy Spirit as we celebrate Pentecost Sunday, and sing Come Holy Spirit creator come we remember that We have not been left alone in this task, for the risen Lord works in and through us by the power of his Holy Spirit.