The first reading at Mass today, Ascension Sunday, tells of the Mystery of the Ascension and anticipates the Gospel reading which tells of the same Mystery.
In my earlier work, Theophilus, I dealt with everything Jesus had done and taught from the beginning until the day he gave his instructions to the apostles he had chosen through the Holy Spirit, and was taken up to heaven. He had shown himself alive to them after his Passion by many demonstrations: for forty days he had continued to appear to them and tell them about the kingdom of God. When he had been at table with them, he had told them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for what the Father had promised. ‘It is’ he had said ‘what you have heard me speak about: John baptised with water but you, not many days from now, will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.’
Now having met together, they asked him, ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ He replied, ‘It is not for you to know times or dates that the Father has decided by his own authority, but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and then you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed to the ends of the earth.’
As he said this he was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were still staring into the sky when suddenly two men in white were standing near them and they said, ‘Why are you men from Galilee standing here looking into the sky? Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven, this same Jesus will come back in the same way as you have seen him go there.’
The accounts are both in works by Luke but there are some differences. Here the concern of the disciples is for the (nature of the) coming of the kingdom: there the concern is for the joining of the dots in terms of ‘understanding’ Jesus and his mission. In both the narrative also looks forward to the coming of the Holy Spirit and the fresh empowerment of the disciples.
- For what do we need the power of the Spirit?
- Where do we find our selves revitalised in God’s love.
The Ascension. Bungay Parish Church, Suffolk. (c) 2011, Allen Morris.