The Ascension Of The Lord, Year C
Theme of the week: May the Holy Spirit embolden us to be 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 disciples 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) What about me? When I pray to God, what do I pray for? Like the disciples in the First Reading, is my relation with God simply a mean for me to achieving physical attainment – that car I wanted, the promotion I sought or the contract I was striving to win?
The Second Reading provides the context to help us move our relationship God to beyond physical attainment. It compares the sacrifices made by the earthly priest with that of Jesus, the heavenly high priest. Like the disciples and many of us, the earthly high priest was stuck in the physical, as he “enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own” (verse 25). The earthly priest sacrifices the blood of animals in a temple built by man, Jesus sacrificed his own blood and was taken into the heavenly sanctuary. Through the shedding of His blood, Jesus bought us our salvation. By his sacrifice, Christ paid for our sins and reconciled us to God.
What is beyond physical attainment then? In the First Reading, just before Christ was taken up to heaven, He called upon the disciples to be his witnesses “to the ends of the earth” (verse 8). This is a call to us too, for we too are called to bear witnesses to the Lord. The Gospel passage echoes the same call. Christ proclaimed to the disciples, “You are witnesses of these things” (verse 48). Witnesses to what, you might ask? The disciples were witnesses to Christ’s resurrection and God’s forgiveness. On resurrection, the disciples were eye-witnesses to the event. On forgiveness, most of them abandoned Jesus after he was captured, yet Jesus forgave them and promised to pour out the Holy Spirit upon them. What about me? Do I not experience the resurrected Christ each time I receive a Sacrament? Do I not experience God’s forgiving grace each time I celebrate Reconciliation? Then, just as the early disciples, am I not called to be a witness to His resurrection and forgiveness? My brothers and sisters, this is our call on the Lord’s Ascension.
Let us reflect on this in the coming days. Let us move our relationship with God beyond physical attainment. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit empowers you and I, as He did with the early disciples, to carry out the important mission of bearing witnesses to Christ. May the Lord be with you. Emmanuel.