The Commissioning of the Apostles
The Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote about 2500 years ago, “Nothing is permanent except change.” To live is to change. Psychologically, it is important to acknowledge the transition from the old to the new, from the past to the future and from what was, to what is to be. We often use commissioning ceremonies to mark such new beginnings, especially if the changes are planned and intentional. In our liturgical life, this feast of the ascension marks a transition between the resurrection of Christ at Easter and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost
Now that he was about to leave them (to ascend into heaven) Jesus said to the apostles, “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.” He thus entrusted them with the task of carrying on his mission.
Jesus has no body now on earth but ours.
He has no hands but ours to feed the hungry.
He has no feet but ours to seek out the lost.
He has no ears but ours to listen to the lonely.
He has no tongue but ours to comfort the sad.
He has no heart but ours to love the unloved.
For Jesus, his ascension was not a journey into outer space, but a journey home. He was returning to the Father. His disappearance into a cloud symbolizes his entry into divine glory. The apostles understood that Jesus’ going was connected with the sending of the Spirit, “Unless I go, the Spirit will not come, but if I go, I will send him to you.” (John 16:7) This meant that his physical absence was a good thing for the apostles.
This helps us to understand why they all returned to Jerusalem full of joy (Luke 24:52). However, they were also sad because he was leaving them. This ascension is as much about us as it is about Jesus. What happened to Jesus is meant to happen to us too. We too are destined to for glory.
In the incarnation, Jesus took our humanity on himself. In the ascension, that humanity has been taken up and glorified. This means that our humanity is now in the unimaginable light of the presence of God.
The ascension does not imply the Lord’s absence from the earth. Rather it represents his liberation from all the restrictions of time and space so that he can be present everywhere on earth. Jesus also didn’t hide from the apostles the difficulties and temptations they would have to face. The only assurance Jesus gave them was that he would be with them always. This is why he told them, “I will be with you always, yes to the end of time.” (Mathew 2820).
Jesus now depends on each one of us to preach the Gospel and to be his witnesses before the world. This is a daunting task but also it is a special and great privilege. The most effective way to preach and to witness to Jesus is by living a good Christian life. We draw strength from our experience that the risen and glorified Christ is with us as he was with the apostles. We are not asked to be successful, only to be faithful witnesses to Christ.
Through baptism we become co-missioned by Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit. Responding to our vocation we carry out the mission that is entrusted to us personally by God. What fosters a deeper and sober response to our vocation involves coming to terms with the vastness of Divine within us. Practicing the contemplative prayer leads to a greater awareness of how present Jesus is in our world through the mystery of Spirit. Silent trusting prayer reduces our distractions from love and helps us gather our heart and mind and soul to actively serve the spread of this Divine Love to all the world.
By Susai Jesu, OMI
Vocation Team – Contact West
Phone: (587) 335-2015