Acts 1:1-11; Ps 47:2,3,6-9; Eph 1:17-23; Lk 24:46-53
What’s all the noise about? Why shout for joy and blare the trumpets? Today is the fortieth day of Easter Joy! Today is the Ascension of the Lord! Indeed, we cannot be loud enough in our praise of the Lord Most High, the awesome, the great King over all the earth! Just as he promised in the Gospel of Saint John, “and I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.” On the cross the Lord Jesus was lifted up amid loud cries of condemnation and rejection. In the resurrection the Lord Jesus was lifted up amid the silence and confusion of the empty tomb. Today the Lord Jesus is being lifted up amid foolish questions and fantastic promises.
Even though they had been with him for forty days after his being lifted up in the resurrection, they still did not understand. Again we hear the foolish question from the beginning of the Acts, “Lord are you going to restore the rule to Israel now?” The apostles keep expecting the Lord Jesus to fulfill their expectations—about power and about glory. The Lord commands them to wait, yet again, in Jerusalem for the promise of the Father. As he explains, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down on you; then you are to be my witneses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, yes, even to the ends of the earth.” The final revelation of his glory will come in the Father’s good time and no one knows the exact day. In the mean time though, the Lord Jesus has plans for his followers that they only can fulfill when they are filled with power from on high. They, too, have to be lifted up on the cross; they, too, have to be witnesses by their testimony and by their blood. Such is not their idea of power and glory, but such is their mission in the Holy Spirit to be his presence until he returns just as you saw him go up into the heavens.
The Father has raised the Lord Jesus up from the depths of hell—the abode of the dead—to the heavenly glory. It is the same power that the Father of glory exercises in granting us a spirit of wisdom and insight to know him clearly. Indeed, the Father of glory enlightens our innermost vision that we might know the great hope to which he has called us in Christ. In his letter to the Ephesians, Saint Paul proclaims that our great hope is to be lifted up with Christ and to sit with him at the right hand of the Father. Through him, with him, in him, we are already present to the Father of glory. In the unity of the Holy Spirit we continue to offer the worship of the first believers who fell down before Christ to do him reverence as he ascended on high to bring our humanity into heavenly glory—so that where he has led we might ascend. Where the head is there too is the body. Where the Lord Jesus sits in glory there too we his body will sit. Such is our inmost vision and our great hope on this Ascension Feast.
“He then led them out near Bethany, and with hands upraised, blessed them. As he blessed, he left them, and was taken up to heaven.” The Great High Priest ascends to te sanctuary on high and leaves a promise and a blessing. He promises to clothe them with power from on high just as Mary was promised in the beginning of Saint Luke’s Gospel. In the beginning of Saint Luke’s Gospel we hear the good news that Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit to bring forth the Lord Jesus. Here at the end of Saint Luke’s Gospel the Church is overshadowed by the Holy Spirit; on Pentecost the followers of the Lord Jesus become witnesses to the ends of the earth. This promise was fulfilled and is being fulfilled in our hearing. The blessing given by Christ at his ascension was the gift of peace and joy. Living in the fellowship of the body of Christ the early community brought this blessing to all the nations. We, too, receive that blessing at our Eucharistic Feast in honor of the Ascended Lord of Glory. We, too, become that blessing for all who long for peace and joy today. Our witness of self-sacrificing love lifts us up on the cross and in the glory. Yet, still some of us are impatient and can’t wait for the Lord to restore the rule to Israel. Some of us still stand here looking up at the skies even after the Lore Jesus has revealed that the only way to the right hand of the Father in glory is through the cross. This feast of the Ascension is still our greatest challenge. Indeed, too are summoned to the mountain of the Ascension and sent to wait in prayer for the Holy Spirit. So that filled with power from on high, we can go forth from our celebration of Easter and become the blessing we receive. A blessing others do not deserve, yet we must give. So that all peoples will clap their hands, and all peoples will shout to God with cries of gladness.