ASCENSION OF OUR LORD
Acts 1:1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28:16-2
All power in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 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 behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.
All power and authority has been given to Jesus; but He is going away, He is not going to use it Personally in the sight of the world. The glorious work of making disciples of all nations is to be accomplished by His disciples, His glory is to be theirs, that of His Church, not His own so far as the world will be able to judge.
This is in accordance with a consistent practice of Jesus: after having taken our sins upon Himself, He gives us His Own Spirit to help us confirm and extend His conquest of and dominion over sin; He makes us adopted children of the Father Who sent Him; yes, He consistently seeks to glorify us and, apparently, let Himself disappear somewhat into the background:
On that day you will ask in My name, and I do not tell you that I will ask the Father for you. For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have come to believe that I came from God.
He does seem to be living-out the words He spoke to His Father (John 17:10):
All Mine are Yours and Yours are Mine and I am glorified in them.
Indeed, Jesus even went so far on one occasion to speak of the Spirit and of the Father with respect to us, omitting Himself altogether (Matthew 10:19-20):
When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say. You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
However, ironically enough, His Personal humility and love for us is the reason why the world hated Jesus and, indeed, still hates Him and His; it is not because of Jesus Himself -- His human personality and character are universally admired by unbiased students of His life -- no, the world’s great trouble with Jesus, so to speak, is that He loves us too much: having Himself shared in our humanity, He wills to share His divinity with us, to make us divine in Himself, that we might thus know and experience something of the transcendental, all-embracing and totally self-giving, love which is Divine LIFE.
Having made mankind in His own likeness, that is, having endowed him with spiritual freedom, God wills – and therefore the Father sent His Son among us – to free us from that which would destroy our likeness with Himself, namely sin. He sent His Son, that He might offer us a choice, that He might help and enable us to use our spiritual freedom to reject the Devil’s ‘toffy-apple of sin’ and deliberately choose to acknowledge the goodness, and give thanks for the great beauty, of our original creation. And then, more wondrously still, to embrace whole-heartedly the eternal promise and sublime fulfilment of our being which is in Jesus, perfect Man and perfect God; Who, having shared our humanity even to tasting the deepest dregs of its sinful condition, nevertheless, still willed to draw us to Himself as members of His Body able to share in His divine glory and, by His Spirit, become true children of the heavenly Father.
Now, the gracious and glorious climax of this drama takes place in the Ascension of Our Blessed Lord today … Alleluia! Deo Gratias!! Thanks be to God!!!
The supreme question now, as we celebrate His Ascension, is of course, what sort of relationship do we have – you and I personally -- with Jesus? Are we able to trust Him totally with our future, are we willing to love Him in and above our present experience of life on earth -- so visibly beautiful and tangibly satisfying -- amidst men and women of all sorts ostensibly searching for, and some already proclaiming themselves to have found, happiness and well-being?
Here, Saint Paul’s prayer in our second reading is so beautifully appropriate:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a (S)spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of Him … that you may know what is the hope that belongs to His call, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe in accordance with the exercise of His great might which He worked in Christ.
Dear People of God, there Paul is telling us that the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus is the model and power-centre for our own rising with Him to the Father Who originally called us. How, though, is that power to be activated in our lives for us?
We cannot, like Magdalen -- clinging to the Jesus of her earthly memories -- be ever seeking and asking of Him earthly blessings and comfort in our passage through life; we have now to learn, with her, how to love Jesus aright as our Ascended Lord, for did not Jesus say to her:
Stop holding on to Me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to My brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to My Father and your Father, to My God and your God.’” (John 20:17)
Stop holding Me, go to My Brothers!!
The key to activating the power of Jesus’ ascension in our own lives is, dear People of God, perfectly simple -- as unquestioning Mary Magdalen found – namely obedience to Jesus the Risen Lord, and to His Spirit in Mother Church and in our Catholic and Christian conscience!! And that requirement of obedience to Jesus is the ultimate reason for the world’s hatred of Him: for despite the fact of His sovereign love for us, and the eternal salvation He offers us, it all -- of its very nature -- involves and demands our obedience; and human pride is at the root of all our sinfulness.
Behold I am sending the promise of My Father upon you, stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high. (Luke 24:49)
Let us therefore trust not in ourselves, nor allow ourselves to be satisfied by the joy of our present celebration, for the work of salvation is ever on-going and it calls on us who try to attend, observe, and live Mother Church’s Liturgy, to accede to the words of Our Lord and pray most sincerely for the proximate coming of God’s Gift of His Most Holy Spirit, that He might be poured out in much-needed fulness upon Mother Church to invest her with heavenly power in her struggles for the Truth of Jesus against the darkness threatening the world. Let us also invoke the Holy Spirit of Jesus into our own hearts, to help each of us learn to better say ‘no’ to ourselves and to all sin; and – in the measure of His unstinting goodness and in accordance with His own good and immeasurable time -- to guide us, lead us, form us for closeness, yes, even intimacy, with Jesus, our own Flesh-and-Blood Lord and Saviour, and in Him, for love of the heavenly Father.