Feast of the Ascension

Today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension. We celebrate Jesus Risen from the dead. We celebrate that Jesus was taken up into heaven in glorified form – both body and soul. We celebrate that He now brings our humanity into the Trinity. We celebrate His commission to His disciples (and to us) to go and continue His ministry. We celebrate that He will come again in glory. we celebrate that He will raise us up with Him if we follow His commands.

So today we celebrate a lot! Let’s think about the experience of Jesus and then what it means for us. Jesus preached publicly for three years. It is well recorded that He was crucified. And we have eyewitness accounts in the Gospels. His disciple John, His mother Mary, and His women disciples were at the foot of the Cross. They saw Jesus crucified. And we have heard in the Gospels, as well as the Acts of the Apostles, the eyewitness accounts of those who had a direct experience, a direct encounter with the Risen Lord in glorified form – both body and soul.

We are then told that Jesus appeared and said many things over the course of 40 days following the Resurrection. This is significant. For the Old Testament mindset, the number 40 has meaning. The Jewish people wandered in the desert for 40 years – moving from slavery to freedom. This is an arc of human movement in relationship with God. This means that through Jesus, we move from the slavery to sin towards freedom of the promised eternal land. Additionally, Noah was in the ark for 40 days as there was a renewal and re-creation of humanity. And so 40 days for Jesus after the Resurrection means moving from slavery to sin and towards freedom of heaven, as well as a renewal and re-creation of humanity in the image and likeness of our God. To follow the example of Jesus – Who as St Paul tells us, is the image of the invisible God. So the number 40 is significant.

40 days after the Resurrection until the feast of the Ascension. Jesus is taken up on a cloud in glory. And we are told by the angels that He will return in the same way.

Jesus went back to God the Father in heaven into the full union of the Trinity and He takes our humanity with Him because He was born as man. It is now part of Him. This elevates humanity to the highest level. How much does our value increase! How we are now so precious to our God that we are included in His very being!

Jesus ascends to the Father in heaven and hands over His ministry to the apostles and His disciples. He will continue to guide through the power of the Holy Spirit, but Jesus places tremendous trust in the ability of His followers to continue His work. His followers must make His kingdom at hand. This is the way Jesus spoke. What this means is that those who follow Him must make His kingdom present. That’s what it means to make it at hand. It means that His followers must transform earth into heaven. We must change our own hearts so that we are more like Christ. When we live and act and think in His spirit then we transform the earth and make the heavenly kingdom a reality. We must live here right now as citizens of heaven. All of this is happening by the fact that Jesus ascended back to the Father in heaven. If Jesus lacked trust in His disciples He would have remained in glory on earth and simply issued edicts for everyone to follow. How much easier for us would that be? However Jesus trusts that we will be guided by the Holy Spirit and continue His work.

We can become dismayed and disappointed at the lack of human achievement in this matter. We can look around at the suffering and cruelty and evil in the world – and think that it is too large a task to overcome.

What we must keep in mind is that we transform the world one act at a time starting with ourselves. So what will we do today in order to re-create who we are – to have a renewal, a better version of ourselves? How will we better live in the Spirit of Christ today? Will we be more patient? Will we be more kind? Will we be more gentle? Will we be more calm? Will we strive to have more peace? Will we strive to be slow to anger and quick in mercy? These are ways we can do it.

Together let us celebrate the feast of the Ascension. Together let us celebrate how much value God now gives to humanity. Let us celebrate that our God trusts us to continue His work. Let us go forth forth living acting and changing the world – in His spirit .

A reading from the Acts of the Apostles

In the first book, Theophilus,
   I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
   until the day he was taken up,
   after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
   to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
   by many proofs after he had suffered,
   appearing to them during forty days
   and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with the them,
   he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
   but to wait for “the promise of the Father
   about which you have heard me speak;
   for John baptized with water,
   but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

When they had gathered together they asked him,
   “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons
   that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
   and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
   throughout Judea and Samaria,
   and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were looking on,
   he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
   suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
   why are you standing there looking at the sky?
This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven
   will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.”

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

R. :

R. (6) God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
R. Alleluia.

All you peoples, clap your hands,
   shout to God with cries of gladness,
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
   is the great king over all the earth.

R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
R. Alleluia.

God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
   the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
   sing praise to our king, sing praise.

R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
R. Alleluia.

For king of all the earth is God;
   sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
   God sits upon his holy throne.

R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
R. Alleluia.

Second Reading
Eph 1:17-23 or Eph 4:1-13 or 4:1-7, 11-13

God seated Jesus at his right hand in the heavens.

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians

Brothers and sisters:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
   give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
   resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
   that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
   what are the riches of glory
   in his inheritance among the holy ones,
   and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
   for us who believe,
   in accord with the exercise of his great might,
   which he worked in Christ,
   raising him from the dead
   and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
   far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
   and every name that is named
   not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things beneath his feet
   and gave him as head over all things to the church,
   which is his body,
   the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

Mk 16:15-20

The Lord Jesus was taken up to heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God.

✠ A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Go into the whole world
   and proclaim the gospel to every creature.
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;
   whoever does not believe will be condemned.
These signs will accompany those who believe:
   in my name they will drive out demons,
   they will speak new languages.
They will pick up serpents with their hands,
   and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them.
They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them,
   was taken up into heaven
   and took his seat at the right hand of God.
But they went forth and preached everywhere,
   while the Lord worked with them
   and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.

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