Word For Today: The Ascension of the Lord

Written by on 13/05/2021

AscensionWord For Today: The Ascension of the Lord

by Father Sam Randall, Priest Director of Radio Maria England

St Luke in the book of Acts writes:

“In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.  On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” (Acts 1: 1-8)

That description of the Lord’s ascension from Acts occurred forty days after he had risen from the dead.  Luke also concludes his Gospel with a description of this important event and in addition to the Acts reading and the description in Luke’s Gospel, the Gospel of Mark says that ‘When the Lord Jesus had finished talking with them, he was taken up into heaven and sat down in the place of honour at God’s right hand.’

But why is the Ascension important?

The catechism of the Church teaches that: Christ’s ascension marks the definitive entrance of Jesus’ humanity into God’s heavenly domain (CCC 665) and that the Lord, as the head of the Church, precedes us into the Father’s kingdom where we will live with him for ever (CCC 666).  Now that the Lord is in heaven, he intercedes for us as our mediator (CCC 667).

The Ascension demonstrates that the Lord had finished his earthly mission.  His life and death were to complete the will of the Father and to give his life as a sacrifice for us (Matt. 20:28, Mk. 10:45). It is our ascended Lord who has saved us (Heb. 7:25)

When he was on the earth Jesus sought to prepare his disciples for his coming passion and departure from them.  In John 14 we read that he had told them not to be despondent and that he was going to leave them and prepare a place for them in his Father’s house (Jn. 14:1-3).  The Lord is described in the Scriptures as our ‘forerunner’ (Heb. 6:20) and he has gone ahead of us to heaven.

When the Lord ascended, he took up his priestly office for us.  He is our great High Priest who stands before God the Father interceding for us as our Great Advocate (1 Jn. 2:1, Heb. 7:25) and as our mediator (1Tim. 2:5).  It is through the Lord Jesus that we have access to the Father (Jn. 14:6) and it is the ascended Lord who keeps us safe (Jude 24) and we live in constant fellowship with our ascended Lord (1 John 1:3).

The fact that our ascended Lord is now with the Father is the guarantee of our spiritual life (John 14:19-20) and it is important because, it not only shows that the Lord had successfully completed his mission, and he has gone ahead of us, and is our great High Priest, the ascension was also necessary so that the Lord could send to his Church the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist had told those who came to him, that the Lord would baptise with the Holy Spirit and with fire.  Jesus, to the crowds in Jerusalem, made the promise of the coming of the life giving Spirit and in the Gospel of John he says that the Spirit will be sent after Jesus has been ascended and glorified (Jn. 7:37-39, 16:7).

The Lord, when he was on earth, did many extraordinary miracles and wonderfully, he promised that after he had ascended his followers would do even greater things ‘because he goes to the Father’ (Jn. 14:12).  In his life on earth the Lord had a physical presence which was both local and physically limited but, after he had ascended his ‘body’ became the Church.  The Church is Christ on earth ministering to the world and the Church is both universal and world-wide (Mk. 16:19-20).

It is because of the Ascension that we are never alone (Matt 28:20).  The Lord accompanies us by his Spirit in our joys (Jn. 2:1-11), our sorrows and suffering (Isa. 43:2), and when we are being tested (Matt. 14:27) and when we die (Psa. 23:4).

The Ascension marks an ending – his earthly ministry- and a beginning – his heavenly ministry – and a future promise.  The ascension of the Lord reminds us that he will return.  The reading that I began this homily with from the first chapter of Acts then reads:

“The disciples were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them.  “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

The Early Christians greeted one another with the Aramaic expression Maranatha and it comes from 1Corinthians 16:22.   Maranatha can mean ‘come Lord’ and may this be our greeting today as we consider and give thanks for our Lord’s ascension: Maranatha – come Lord Jesus.  Amen!

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