Grace to you and Happy Ascension Day!
Reflect on two unique moments when the Lord Jesus gave farewell words to his disciples. The first was on the eve of his arrest during the Last Supper. During the supper, he left some instructions to his apostles: "Do this in memory of me." These are the words of the institution of the Eucharist. Following this was the Lord's moving action of washing the feet of the disciples and asking them to do the same. In our faith tradition, we see this latter act as part of the institution of church leadership—the Sacrament of Holy Orders.
This goodbye was not the Lord's final goodbye to the disciples. The second and final goodbye of Jesus in bodily form was at the Ascension. Scripture records the moving scene: “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be my witnesses . . . And when he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, who do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven" (Acts 1:8-11).
Indeed, this doesn't seem like a hallucination galore as some critiques who deny the Ascension argue. All the apostles would not be hallucinating at the same time. Moreover, the use of vivid phrases like, "as they were living" "a cloud took him" "while they were still gazing," . . . where testimonies of first-hand witnesses. Besides, there was a clear message from two angels testifying the truth in the reality of the Ascension.
The point is this: This final goodbye from the Lord Jesus was dramatic. I suggest that, perhaps, the Lord wanted the memory to stick. The message of this Ascension is consistent in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Namely, you will receive the Holy Spirit so you can bear witness to these.
If you relate this final goodbye with the Last Supper goodbye, you have the complete picture of the Lord Jesus' "Will" to his followers. It's like he was saying the following to them: I am done with my mission on earth. Now is your time to continue it to the ends of the earth. You do so by celebrating me in the Eucharist and bearing witness to me with your life, such as leading by example of service and letting others know about what I have done. All this is possible by the Holy Spirit I will send you so you can bear witnesses.
The event and message of Ascension emphasize the following to me, and they are worth pondering and acting upon:
Evangelization is, therefore, a central mission of the Church. A failure to evangelize is a failure in our mission as the Church. But evangelization is possible through the power of the Holy Spirit, God's gift to us, through Jesus Christ, the Lord.
Starting from this evening, I will lead us through a nine-day novena reflection on the Holy Spirit.
Pray: Lord Jesus, keep the memory of your “Will” in my mind so I can always boldly tell the story of my redemption in you. Amen
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Ascension Thursday: Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; MT 28:16-20]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.