Thursday, May 13, 2021 & Sunday, May 16, 2021 The Ascension of the Lord
Jesus Ascends into Heaven, But He Will Return
First Reading Commentary Acts 1:1-11
The first book of Luke, Theophilus, dealt with what Jesus taught the Apostles and the instructions which He gave to them. Theophilus means lover of God and that is the name of the person to whom Luke gave his first book which was the Gospel of Luke. Luke is also the author of Acts of the Apostles.
Luke tells us that Jesus spent forty days appearing to the Apostles and speaking to them about the Kingdom of God before He ascended into heaven. The number forty is significant because the Israelites spent forty years wandering in the desert and Jesus spent forty days in the desert. Jesus spent forty days after His Resurrection giving the Apostles instructions preparing them for their ministries and giving them proof of His Resurrection that they could testify to as witnesses.
In the book of Revelation, the number ten represents shortness, incompleteness and limitation. Simple math tells us that four times ten is forty. The message for us behind Jesus spending forty days on earth before His Ascension is that Jesus used that time to prepare the Apostles so that they could prepare us for our journey which will not be complete until we enter the Kingdom of Heaven.
Jesus told the Apostles to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the fulfillment of the promise of the Holy Spirit. Jesus said, “John baptized with water, but in a few days, you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” The Apostles did not yet understand that Jesus was telling them about Pentecost and the Sacrament of Confirmation. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles, they became sealed by the Spirit which is the grace that flows in the Sacrament of Confirmation.
The fact that the Apostles did not understand what Jesus was saying is further evidenced by their question, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?” Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know the times or the 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…”
The Apostles were looking for an earthly kingdom and they would later realize that Jesus was not talking about an earthly kingdom. They would also learn from what Jesus said to them, not to put a time constraint on God. We make that mistake when we pray for something and then become impatient because God does not work within our time frame. If Jesus told the Apostles not to do that, then we must be careful not to make that mistake either. Remember this reading and today’s second reading when tempted and remember that God may not do things in our time, but He is always on time!
When Jesus told the Apostles that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit, He was telling them that He would share His own powers with them. This is evidenced by the many miracles which they performed during their ministries.
By telling the Apostles that they would be His witnesses to the ends of the earth, He was telling them to go everywhere and that, they had no geographical boundaries. Jesus was also telling the Apostles that they had been prepared and that they were ready to face the world. We should be prepared to face the world with our faith as well. We should never miss an opportunity to share our faith and we should never back down from anyone in defending our faith.
When Jesus finished speaking to the Apostles, He was lifted up and a cloud took Him from their sight as they looked intently at the sky. Suddenly, two men dressed in white garments stood beside them and said, “…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.”
This is Luke's witness of the Ascension of Jesus. Two men, angels, told the Apostles that Jesus had gone to heaven but would return. At this time, they had no idea when Jesus would return and neither do, we. The only thing that we do know is that when Jesus makes His second coming on the last day, He will not come in His humanity. Instead, He will come in the full glory of His divinity as God the Son as was revealed to John in the book of Revelation. The question is: not when. The question is: are we ready?
Paul’s Prayer of Enlightenment
Second Reading Commentary Ephesians 1:17-23
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul declares Jesus Christ as the Father of glory. This is because in His humility and obedience to the Father, no one gave more glory to the Father than Christ. As the second person of the Trinity, Christ declared Himself as the Alpha and Omega and proved His divinity with His Resurrection. But in His humanity, Christ was always humble especially toward the Father.
We know that all praise and honor and glory belong to God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But we do not always stop to realize that we give God His glory with our humility. Sometimes we take God for granted and expect that our prayers be answered in the way that we want them answered and in our time. That is a mistake that Christ never made! If Christ, who is the Son, can show His humility toward the Father, we should follow the Son’s lead and example and do the same. After all, Jesus came to lead by example.
This part of Paul’s letter is a prayer and he is asking that the Father send the Spirit’s gifts of wisdom and knowledge. He is asking God that our hearts be enlightened to the hope of God’s call to be with Him in heaven.
Paul did not ask that we be granted the things which we desire here in this life. He prayed for something much greater—something which is everlasting. Paul was asking that we be accepted into the Kingdom of Heaven but more importantly, Paul was asking that we be given the tools that we need to desire the Kingdom of Heaven more than anything else. Why? Because only those who want to be in heaven; will get to heaven.
In his prayer, Paul also gave praise acknowledging the Father’s great power which He worked through the Son making the Son above all things forever and ever. Giving praise is a very important part of prayer and all too often, we pray asking for something without giving praise. And so, we can take this prayer from Paul as a lesson of how to pray because it is consistent with the way that Jesus taught us how to pray. In the Our Father, Jesus taught us to ask but not without giving praise. In fact, giving praise to the Father is the first part of the Our Father.
Paul concludes this part of his letter by telling us that Christ is the head of the Church, “which is His body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” We know that Peter was made head of the Church by Christ Himself. But we must remember that Peter was chosen to lead the Church here on earth. Paul is telling us that the Church belongs to Christ and is Christ--His Mystical Body, and that as members of the Church, we are each a part of that Mystical Body.
It is the Father who wills that all good things in every way be fulfilled. But the Father’s Will is carried out through the Son. All things that come from God pass through the Son. This is why we sometimes pray, “Through Christ our Lord, from whom all good things come.” It is by virtue of the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we desire all things that come from the Father through the Son and it is Paul’s prayer that our hearts be open to this enlightenment.
When God Has Our Backs, We Simply Cannot Fail
Gospel Commentary: Mark 16:15-20
The Ascension of the Lord into heaven, the Second Glorious Mystery of the Rosary, is accounted for in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke as well as the Gospel of Mark which, we hear today.
Luke tells us that when Jesus appeared to the disciples in Jerusalem, He referred to Scripture and told the disciples that He would suffer and rise on the third day and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached in His name to all nations beginning from Jerusalem. Luke 24:46-47 In Matthew’s Gospel, when the disciples were commissioned just before the Ascension, Jesus commanded them to go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Matthew 28:19
It is the last will and testament of Jesus that the disciples go out and preach the Good News of the Gospel to all people and baptize them. The executor of an estate is responsible for carrying out the last will and testament and Jesus appointed the disciples to be His executors. But there are three big differences between the disciples and the executor of an estate. These differences are promises that Jesus made.
First, Jesus told the disciples to stay in the city, that the promise of the Father would come upon them and that they would be clothed with power from on high. Luke 24:49 Jesus was promising the Holy Spirit who would come upon the disciples ten days later on Pentecost Sunday and Jesus was reassuring the disciples that with the Holy Spirit, they would have the power to build and grow the Church.
Second, Jesus promised to be with the disciples always. Matthew 28:20 It was like Jesus was telling the disciples, “Don’t worry. I got you!” In Sunday's gospel, John 15:9-17, we heard Jesus tell the disciples that He was their friend but here, Jesus was telling the disciples that He was their best friend and the only friend that they could count on always.
Third, in today’s Gospel, Jesus promised that if they believed, they would be accompanied by signs—the disciples would be able to drive out demons, speak in tongues, pick up serpents with their bare hands and be able to drink deadly things without harm.
When there is a difficult task in front of us, we often times look for support. Sometimes we need a helping hand and/or positive encouragement. It is good to know that someone is on our side who wants to see us succeed at whatever we are attempting to do or overcome whatever challenge there is before us.
All too often, we are afraid to ask for help or our pride will not allow us to ask for help. But Jesus knew that His disciples were not afraid or too proud to ask. Yet, they were afraid of what was going on around them with the non-believers seeking to persecute them and they did not know just what to do.
But Jesus came to the rescue as He always does. He told them what to do, how to do it and not to worry because they could not fail as long as they believed. It was impossible for them to fail because the power of God and the Spirit of God was with them. There is no one on earth who can be there for us like God. No matter how well intentioned and no matter how hard they try, no one can advise us, show us the way and protect us like God can and will. When God has our backs, we simply cannot fail. We can only succeed and that is exactly what happened with the disciples as they proclaimed the Good News of the Gospels. That’s why when we are in trouble facing difficult times, we should just take it to Jesus and put it in His hands. He will take care of it.