“Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven.” (Luke 24:50-51)
Today makes it forty days since the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. In the course of this period, Jesus constantly appeared to the disciples to strengthen their faith, to assure them of the truth that he is the Messiah. He told them so many things and since there was much more they needed to know, He assured them of the Holy Spirit who would come to teach them everything.
Till this time, the disciples were still expecting that Jesus would take over power from the Roman authorities. They still didn’t understand that Jesus had not come to be a Political Messiah. The disciples asked him: “Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)
Jesus must have probably laughed at them for not having their priorities right. So, he responded: “It is not for you to know the times or seasons… But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you shall be my witnesses.” (Acts 1:7-8) In other words, receiving the power of the Holy Spirit and becoming witnesses for Jesus is far more important and far more precious than having to overthrow the Romans or taking seats in government.
This is the point St. Paul harps upon in the second reading. He prays that we have the spirit of Wisdom so that our eyes would be open to realising the great hope we now have the courtesy of Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. By his Ascension, Christ has united our human nature with God thereby making it possible for the human species to be united with God. St. Paul refers to this as a glorious inheritance, immeasurable greatness.
By leading them up to Bethany as the Gospel of Luke presents, Jesus wanted the disciples to remember his friend Lazarus; to know that he has truly conquered the power of death.
Jesus then lifted up his hands to bless the disciples and as he blessed them, he was carried into heaven before their very eyes. Does it mean that Jesus is no longer with us? Of course, no. By going up to heaven, Jesus did not create a distance between himself and humanity, rather his Ascension confirms the truth that we all have a final destination that is not here on earth. Jesus is still with us. Jesus is always with us.
In fact, we must never forget Jesus’ last words in the Gospel of Matthew: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Today should be a day of joy for us, a day to celebrate the final victory of life over death, a day to celebrate our firm assurance that heaven exists, that just as Christ ascended to heaven, we too shall one day depart this earth and be united with God in heaven. Luke concludes by saying: “The disciples returned to Jerusalem with great joy and were continually in the temple blessing God.” The disciples entered a mood of prayer in preparation for the descent of the Holy Spirit. This is exactly what we must now do as we await the Comforter, the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost from heaven.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, may the celebration of your Ascension rekindle my prayer life so that I may be properly prepared to receive the Holy Spirit. Amen
Bible Study: Acts 1:1-11, Ps. 47:2-3,6-9, Ephesians 1:17-23, Luke 24:46-53)
© Rev. Fr. Evaristus Abu