Ascension of the Lord
The feast of the Ascension of the Lord is not a feast which brings an end to Jesus’ work rather this feast marks transition from a limited sphere of activities like preaching, healing, living and dying within the geographical space of Israel to the exalted position of being in glory at the Father’s right hand and interceding for us all.
Forty days recalls the experience of the two prophet ancestors who had spoken with Jesus on the mount of transfiguration. For forty days God instructed Moses in the law on Mount Sinai, for forty days Elijah journeyed to Horeb before his encounter with God in the absolute silence outside the cave. Forty is also a biblical number of transitions to a new stage of salvation history. For forty days the apostles share the company of the risen Jesus, eat with him, and wait for the Holy Spirit, the promise of the Father who will be given to them. Therefore, the Ascension points to the need for Pentecost and the Spirit-filled passion that will make the disciples the witnesses of Jesus throughout the world until he comes again.
In today’s Gospel, Luke explains that suffering is not the last word for any of us. Christ comes to his followers and offers them his blessing. Through his death, resurrection and ascension Jesus restores to them a deeper sense of hope and peace. This experience of faith will continue to remain with them in the Spirit promised by the Father. This is also very clear in the Acts of the Apostles where Luke tells of the presence of Christ in the early Church reminding us of the Lord’s promise that we will never be alone. He also reminds us that through Christ’s passion and his rising from death that are the source of our hope. The ascension experience tells us that Christ has conquered everything of the past and the present and is with us to the end of time. He leaves behind us the Advocate so that we might be people of the spirit, people with a new dignity who are reconciled with one another. Definitely, his return to the Father in glory gives us new cause to celebrate our redeemed humanity Luke concludes his Gospel by again opening his disciples’ eyes and hearts to the Scriptures, as he had done at Emmaus. But now he goes further by commissioning them to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to all the nations. Again, before their ascending Lord, the disciples prostrate themselves with joy and just as Luke’s Gospel had begun in the Temple and so also it ends there.
As we gather around his table, it is good to ask the question. What is it that stops us celebrating our redeemed humanity? One thing that often holds us back is our fear: fear of failure, fear of being alone, fear of being misunderstood or fear of death etc. The truth is that Christ has conquered everything, and he is simply asking us to trust in him and let go of our fears that we might ascend to a new level of human integrity. Accepting our vocation is one of the greatest honors we can show our redeemed humanity. By accepting and pursuing our God given vocation we are extending the incarnation of Jesus in history and are fulfilling the hope of God that we will go to the ends of the earth to share the good news.
By Susai Jesu, OMI
Vocation Team – West