For those of you who didn’t know, today is Ascension Thursday, or the day upon which we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus into heaven (40 days after Easter Sunday).
In my recent and not-so-recent religious past, I didn’t really give much thought to holy days, except to make sure I squeezed in that required mass between cheerleading practice and part-time grocery store employment. To be honest, attending mass was more of a hassel to my adolescent self than anything else– I really spent very little of the time focusing on the Lord, and I can honestly tell you that JUST NOW, at age 27, am I learning what it is we’re CELEBRATING on these days!
So today is The Ascension of the Lord. On Easter, we celebrated His conquer of Death, His Glorious Resurrection. For 40 days, the Risen Lord dwelled among the faithful, here on earth, and then, in an instant, He was gone– Ascending to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. We, the faithful, remain on earth to await His second coming, the time of which no one can know.
“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking in the sky? The Lord will return, just as you have seen Him ascend, alleluia.” (Acts 1:11)
“Jesus said to His disciples: ‘Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothes with power from on high.”
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then retuned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.” The Gospel of the Lord. (Luke 24:46-53)
What do we take from this Gospel? Personally, I take this Gospel (and the opening antiphon from Acts) as HOPE for all humanity! In these passages, Jesus has left his disciples, to go and be with the Father in Heaven. The disciples witnessed first hand that Jesus fulfilled the Scriptures (as the first paragraph of the Gospel spells out). They witnessed his Resurrection and his fulfillment– then, on the Ascension, they witnessed him depart earth for heaven.
But Jesus does not leave them empty handed– He leaves them with a promise– the promise of his Father. What was that promise?
[I’m no Bible scholar, and it’s important that I so note the following is my OPINION only– it may or may not represent what the Church teaches. Should anyone care to share an official church teaching about this Gospel I will gladly, and appreciatively, post it in the comments section!]
The promise Jesus is reminding them off is the promise OF his Father. I believe (and again, see disclaimer above) that Jesus could be reminding the disciples of all the MANY promises God has made to His beloved children, throughout the whole course of time, as noted in previous Scriptures. It seems to me, Jesus is saying to the people ‘don’t be sad to see me go. I’m not leaving you alone– you have, and have ALWAYS had, God the Father, who continues to watch over you and maintain the promises He has always made. Remember them– keep up your end of the bargain! Be faithful, even after I am gone!’
And so, on Ascension Thursday, I am taking the time to pause, and reflect, upon all the promises God has made to we, His beloved children. I am examing whether or not I believe I am keeping up my end of the bargain!
In closing– He is Risen! And He will come again in GLORY to judge the living and the dead, and His kingdom shall have NO END! Be hopeful. Be faithful. Try to figure out what it means to love God– because He loves YOU no matter what!