Are we left looking into the sky?

As you heard in Father’s introduction, today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension of our Lord. The day on which Jesus left this earth and ascended back into heaven.

For such an important feast day today’s gospel seems almost anti-climactic. It just says, “As He blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven.” That’s it, in today’s computer animation, blockbuster movie, virtual reality environment it seems as though there should have been a few more special effects thrown in. There should have been some lightning bolts, or erupting volcanos, or spectacular rips in the fabric of time. At least a few laser beams thrown in for good measure, but no, “He just blessed them and parted from them.” It seems almost underwhelming.

Wasn’t it just 40 some days ago that we were remembering his horrible torture, and crucifixion? Then of course there was his resurrection from the dead. And let’s not forget that for the past few weeks he has been appearing numerous times to his disciples. As a matter of fact, he has appeared so many times that today’s narration begins with Jesus and his disciples going out for a short hike together. It said that they went out as far as Bethany. Now, from Jerusalem to Bethany is just about a 2 mile hike. You have to wonder if one of the Apostles didn’t come up to Jesus and say, maybe you should sit down for a minute, take it easy after all you were crucified just a few weeks ago. They say that it takes a couple of weeks to recover from one of those things.

Too often we take all of these amazing things for granted; His crucifixion and death, His resurrection, His descending into hell, His coming back from the dead and today His Ascension back into heaven. And we are like, “ho hum, it’s just another Sunday?” Why aren’t we totally amazed, dumbstruck, astounded, left in total wonder? Maybe it is the fault of the scriptures. There are only two accounts of the Ascension in the bible, and we heard both of them this morning. The gospel was the account from Luke and the first reading was the account from the Acts of the Apostles. It came from the beginning of the Acts, chapter 1 verses 1 through 11. It is what starts the Acts of the Apostles.

Even in the second version it seems understated. At least in the Acts version there were some attempts at special effects, after all Jesus did ride off in a cloud. But as the disciples were left standing there looking up to the sky “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.”

See, this is what I am talking about. The son of Man, the savior of the world, the third person of the trinity was just taken into heaven on a cloud and these two guys are saying “what are you looking at?” Did you not just see Jesus float up into that cloud and disappear? I mean, what have you guys been looking at?

Maybe that was the point, the last line begins, “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return”. Maybe it is meant to be an understatement, maybe it is an amazing event but just one of many amazing events that we have reflected on these past 40 days. Afterall the Ascension is placed between the resurrection and Pentecost in the Glorious Mysteries. Maybe we should consider the Ascension as a beginning not an end. Next week we will celebrate Pentecost; God has not left us he was just making room for the coming of the Holy Spirit. We are not left alone, we are surrounded, inundated, engulfed by the Lord. The Ascension does not close the book on the Gospel, as a matter of fact today’s readings are not even half way through the new testament. There is still all of the Acts, all of the letters of Paul, James, Peter, Jude, not to mention the Revelations. And let’s not forget all of the work that we have left to do.

Look at the world around us and tell me that you think that we should be left standing on that hill looking up into the clouds. There is so much for us to do right here and right now. Remember, Paul tells us in first Thessalonians to “Pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks.” “Unceasing” that means without ceasing. That’s a lot for a really long time. St. Francis is credited with adding to this by saying, “pray unceasingly and use words only when absolutely necessary.” Jesus also tells us that in the gospel of John when he said that we should not “love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”

Today’s gospel ends with, “They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.” And those are the three things that he leaves with us today. First, after we have finished looking off into the sky, we should all do homage to our Lord. We should come visit Him this week, right here in the tabernacle, spend an hour with Him during Thursday Adoration, sign up on the sheet in the back of church or just stop by for a minute sometime that day.
Second, “return to Jerusalem with great joy”; we have so much to be joyful for, God loves you, He has loved you since before you were born and wants to be a part of every aspect of your life. And finally, we should be “continually praising God” using words only when absolutely necessary.

When I was younger a Sunday school teacher once told us that Jesus ascended into heaven so that he would have a better vantage point from which he could look down and see how we were doing. You can imagine for a 2nd grade boy this was terrifying. Today we heard that, “Christ did not enter into a sanctuary made by hands, a copy of the true one, but heaven itself, that he might now appear before God on our behalf.”

Now that is a little less terrifying. Just think about it, with Jesus appearing before God on our behalf and the Holy Spirit on his way to be with us next Sunday maybe, just maybe, praying unceasingly might not be such a stretch.

Alleluia, alleluia.
Go and teach all nations, says the Lord;
I am with you always, until the end of the world.

LK 24:46-53

Jesus 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.

May 29, 2022

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