In this reading from the Acts, Luke is recalling for Theophilis the event of the Ascension of the Lord which closed Jesus’s ministry on earth and opened up the mission of the disciples which Jesus has been preparing them for. He has prepared them to be his witnesses. They have accompanied him for so long and he has shared with them all that the Father shared with him. Now he instructs them to go to Galilee and wait there for the Him and for the realization of the promise of the Father. Receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, they will receive the power and the authority to be his witnesses throughout the then known world. What has begun in Jerusalem will eventually end in Rome, the centre of the Roman Empire. Then He was taken up to heaven – and the story continues.
Paul in the verses preceding those of today’s excerpt from his Letter to the Ephesians is a beautiful, moving paean of praise of the inheritance we have received from Christ, and is marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit. Paul is so happy to hear of how the Ephesians have received and responded to the gift of hearing of the risen Christ. He prays specially that they be given the gifts of wisdom and understanding, holding in their hearts the hope sown in the riches of this glorious inheritance. This is the Mission. It calls for wisdom, understanding and close relationship with God, not just knowing about him, but knowing Him, like the disciples themselves knew Him.
Ascension is the grand finale, the culmination of God’s plan for Jesus, his return to the Father with mission accomplished, but not ended. It continues in the mission entrusted to all those on whom He has lavished the riches of that inheritance. He said he would remain with them always in that mission. This reading has a special call for us. It calls for silence, and prayer.
There is a recognisable thread through each of the three Readings for the Feast of the Ascension. The eleven disciples waited for Jesus, as he asked, in Galilee. There was fear among them. Some were still doubters even sceptics. We can only guess their state of mind. But they loved Him so they were there. When He came, we are told they greeted him with worship. He spoke to them and commissioned them to go teach all peoples all that He had been taught by the Father and shared with them and to baptise them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They have His authority to do so – go take the initiative and offer them the first word. This is the price of discipleship for all of us who preach the Word of God. Taking the initiative is for the strong minded. It can be costly, as we know from living in our own times, in our own country, and of reading the many reports from around our world. Our hope lies in His promise to be present with us always.
Sr. Dominique Horgan OP