The Ascension Of The Lord, Year A
Theme of the week: Invite the Spirit into our hearts, and be emboldened witnesses to Christ’s resurrection and forgiveness.
The event of Pentecost, where the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in a dramatic way, was foretold by the prophet Joel several hundred years before the actual event took place (Joel 2:28-29). A reflection of the First Reading reveals to us why Pentecost is so important. One of the reasons that drove the people to demanding Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday was disenchantment – the people were disenchanted that Jesus did not use his popularity to overthrow their Roman rulers and restore the kingdom of Israel. In the First Reading, we were told that even after Jesus’ resurrection, the disciplines were still bounded by these earthly expectations. Hence they asked, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (verse 6) Jesus’ responded by promising them the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the same Spirit that will teach them everything (John 14:26). After He said this, the resurrected Christ was taken body and spirit into heaven. As we read later in Acts 2:1-12, the coming of the Holy Spirit marked a new chapter in salvation history. The power of the Holy Spirit emboldened the Apostles, as they started bearing powerful witnesses to Christ. As the Person of Jesus ascended, the Person of the Spirit descended, giving birth to the Church which the Spirit continues to guide and form to this day.
Christ foretold that his disciples will be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (verse – this is the universal nature of salvation. In fact, now that Christ is taken into Heaven, he is no longer constrained by an earthly existence. Unconstrained, Christ accompanies his disciples anywhere and everywhere – “to the ends of the earth”. This is none more true than on the Eucharistic table – Christ is physically present there whenever and wherever the Eucharist is celebrated.
As a fitting elaboration of the ascension story, the Second Reading explains the supreme authority of the Christ: He sits at God’s right hand, “far above all rule and authority and power and dominion” (verse 21). Not only that, “the fullness of him … fills all in all” (verse 23). He is in everything that has been created. That is how we encounter God every day, in everything that he created, in everything that our senses encounter, from a beautiful sunset to a suckling baby.
In the Gospel, the 11 Apostles met Jesus on a mountain. There, some worshipped him; some doubted (verse 17). To reinforce the worshipping disciples and assure the doubting ones, Jesus made the same proclamation we heard in the Second Reading: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Verse 18) He then gave the Apostles an important mission: to “make disciples of all nations” (verse 19). He concluded with the reassuring promise that he will be with us always (verse 20), he is Emmanuel(God with us), till the end of time.
Ponder for a moment. Jesus accepted an earthly death because his Kingdom is not of this world. In this week’s Scripture passages, we heard that in spite of Jesus being resurrected from his earthy death, some of the disciples still did not understand and appreciate the significance of the events before them. In the First Reading, some asked, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6). In the Gospel, some even hesitated to worship him (Mt 28:17) Post-Pentecost, the Spirit descended upon the disciples, opened their eyes and enlightened them. What about me? Have I allowed the Spirit to enter my hearts to enlighten me? Or do I hesitate like some of the disciples? Like some of the disciples, am I still looking for earthly rewards instead of an heavenly one?