5 May – Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
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.’
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a spirit of wisdom and perception of what is revealed, to bring you to full knowledge of him. May he enlighten the eyes of your mind so that you can see what hope his call holds for you, what rich glories he has promised the saints will inherit and how infinitely great is the power that he has exercised for us believers. This you can tell from the strength of his power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand, in heaven, far above every Sovereignty, Authority, Power, or Domination, or any other name that can be named not only in this age but also in the age to come. He has put all things under his feet and made him, as the ruler of everything, the head of the Church; which is his body, the fullness of him who fills the whole creation.
Jesus said to his disciples, ‘You see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.
‘And now I am sending down to you what the Father has promised. Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.’
Then he took them out as far as the outskirts of Bethany, and lifting up his hands he blessed them. Now as he blessed them, he withdrew from them and was carried up to heaven. They worshipped him and then went back to Jerusalem full of joy; and they were continually in the Temple praising God.
You are witnesses to this
In the Ascension of the Lord, we might conjure up images of Jesus floating upward into the sky. In fact, fundamentally, heaven is not a locale at all but our definitive relationship with God, just as hell is the eternal severing of our ties with God. Heaven is where God is, and to be with God is to be in Heaven. And so what Ascension celebrates is that Jesus is fully, totally and forever reunited with the Father. It is the final prize that we all look forward to, since Jesus has paved a way for us.
Father Joachim Chang, the priest who has been tasked with building the new Church of the Transfiguration that will serve the community in Punggol, wrote recently on FaceBook – “When one cannot understand why he is born, he will find it hard to understand why he will die.” Indeed, just as the Ascension is about Jesus’ reunion with God the Father, it is also about Him passing on the baton to his apostles. For He said, “you will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria, and indeed the ends of the earth.” And I do believe that in the same way, He has breathed life into each living person with a purpose and a meaning for each of us. It is our responsibility and our urgent need to live out that purpose.
If we were to distill it down to our terms, this might mean a journey of discernment about marriage or religious life, or the type of work to go into. Personally I am trying to discern the type of work I should commit my life to – accounting, or social work, or early childhood care, or theology? As I ponder on personal questions more deeply, I realize that even the journey of discernment has a God-purpose. Our journeys, rather than our destinations, are our purpose. And if we are authentic and genuine in our desires to follow the Lord’s ways, these journeys can become a testament to his greatness and ignite conversion experiences for others close to us, who observe us on our journey. For evangelization is the duty of each and every Catholic who has found the treasure that is God.
(Today’s OXYEGEN by Serene Frances Wong)
Prayer – Dear Jesus, help us discover our purposes in You, that we may live lives glorifying Your name. Amen.
Thanksgiving – We give thanks for the gift of time on this Earth, that we may enjoy the adventure before our time is up to return to the Lord.