June 2, 2019 – Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
ACTS 1:1-11In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up,
after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit
to the apostles whom he had chosen.
He presented himself alive to them
by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days
and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While meeting with them,
he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem,
but to wait for “the promise of the Father
about which you have heard me speak;
for John baptized with water,
but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
When they had gathered together they asked him,
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or 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 in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were looking on,
he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.
While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going,
suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.
They said, “Men of Galilee,
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.”
PS 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9R. (6) God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
All you peoples, clap your hands,
shout to God with cries of gladness,
For the LORD, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth.R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the LORD, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise.R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.For king of all the earth is God;
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits upon his holy throne.R. God mounts his throne to shouts of joy: a blare of trumpets for the Lord.
EPH 1:17-23Brothers and sisters:
May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory,
give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation
resulting in knowledge of him.
May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened,
that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call,
what are the riches of glory
in his inheritance among the holy ones,
and what is the surpassing greatness of his power
for us who believe,
in accord with the exercise of his great might:
which he worked in Christ,
raising him from the dead
and seating him at his right hand in the heavens,
far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion,
and every name that is named
not only in this age but also in the one to come.
And he put all things beneath his feet
and gave him as head over all things to the church,
which is his body,
the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.
Gospel LK 24:46-53Jesus 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 clothed 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 returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
and they were continually in the temple praising God.The Gospel of the Lord.
Have you ever had a religious experience? A religious experience is a deep experience of God. This is a tremendous joy because of something good that we received. It could be a moment of your prayer time where you have deeply felt God’s presence that despite the many problems you have but you were made confident and at peace. It could be in an occasion where you have seen your family or friends being together and the happiness of being with them cannot be contained. This could be the moment your girlfriend said yes to you or the very first time you have seen and carried in your arms your baby.
This tremendous joy makes God’s presence and love ever more present in us. Because of this, we wanted to get hold of it, to just stay there, in those feelings of joy.
The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles told us about this kind of experience. The apostles witnessed the ascension of Jesus into heaven. That was surely an event that captivated them so greatly. It was no ordinary event but it was glorious. It was their religious experience where God made himself ever present in them as Jesus was lifted up. Because of that, the apostles even kept looking at the sky. They wanted to behold that moment for a long time, not wanting to disappear from their sight and memory what had just happened.
However, two men appeared in their midst and told them, “Why are you standing there looking at the sky?” The apostles seemed to be stunned with what just happened. But, they were not to remain standing there and gazing at the sky. The apostles were told to come down and share what Jesus shared to them. They were to become his witnesses beginning from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, as the Gospel told us.
Indeed, the apostles were witnesses of the many wonders God made and did through Jesus. As Jesus ascended back to his Father in heaven, Jesus gave a crucial role to those who believed in him. These believers were being sent and empowered by Jesus through his ascension to heaven.
Jesus’ ascension then does not mean that the disciples were being left alone or abandoned. His ascension means being more present to each of his friends wherever they would go. His ascension makes him a constant companion to all of them and to each of us now.
What does it mean to us? This feast reminds us that we, who believe in Jesus, are called to tell others about Jesus – that in our own way, as a student, a son/daughter, husband/wife, laborer, a skilled worker or professional, each of us is sent to bring Jesus into the lives of others through our words and actions.
Our very experience of the presence of God should move and motivate us to tell others of God’s goodness and generosity in us. Our experience of God is not meant for us alone but it has to be shared to others, to your neighbors even to strangers.
And yes, when we make a stand of being a witness of Jesus, of our Christian faith, it won’t be easy. It might be quite difficult because many things and people will be against us. Why? Because, it is not easy to be honest, when others are dishonest, it is not easy to be selfless when others are selfish; it is not easy to be faithful when others are unfaithful.
As we continue to deepen our faith, I would like to ask you to do something and begin becoming a true witness of Jesus.
Share to someone, to your friends, family members or even to strangers your own experience of God’s goodness and generosity. For the young ones, you may explore the social media as a way of communicating and sharing the goodness of God. It is just timely that on this Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord, we are also celebrating World Communications Day. Facebook, Instagram and twitter are good media to proclaim the goodness of God to others. Thus, spread Jesus today! Spread the Good News and not fake news; spread the good not the lies and defamation of others. Make viral God’s faithfulness and mercy upon us. But remember that in sharing and proclaiming how good God is – our words are not enough, do something good also through our good deeds and generous actions towards others. Hinaut pa unta.
Jom Baring, CSsR