The Ascension of the Lord

Acts 1:1-11      Ephesians 4:1-13      Mark 16:15-20

Ascension of the LordWe have all been brought up to believe that it was 40 days after the Resurrection that Jesus ascended to heaven and returned to the Father. Today’s Gospel reading from Saint Mark suggests that it was on the same day as He rose from the dead. In today’s first reading from Acts Saint Luke says that it was indeed forty days after the Resurrection that He was ‘lifted up’.  We know about many of the things that Jesus did after the Resurrection – the healing and teaching and the promise of Spirit to inspire and support the apostles. It is possible that these acts of the Risen Lord could have taken place on the one day but it is easier for us to understand the process over the ‘perfect period of time’ – 40 days.

Whether it was 40 days or just the hours after the Resurrection, the Lord had important things to do and say before He returned to the Father. Saint Mark emphasised the meeting with Mary Magdalene and his revelation to her that He had Risen. She immediately went out and told the others. They would not believe her!!  Then Jesus appeared to the two disciples on the Road to Emmaus. They went back and told the others. Again, they did not believe them!! The Lord’s patience with his disciples knew no limit. He appeared to them while they were at supper. Though He did admonish them, He also commissioned them. They were to go out to the whole world.  They were to proclaim Him: they were to preach: they were to cast out evil: they were to heal - all the things that He had done while with them. They were to be His presence in the world. How awesome!!

The promise of the Spirit was hardly a great comfort to the Apostles, they did not fully understand. But the Lord had promised His help from heaven and, as they carried out His work, they were assured “by the signs that accompanied it.”

Saint Paul was surely the most unlikely apostle. This man, who had persecuted the very body of believers and had to be struck down before he believed, heard the call of the Lord and responded with enthusiasm and courage. He knew what is was to be disciple of Jesus. While we struggle to find in ourselves the ability to proclaim the Lord, to drive out evil and to heal, it is Paul who counsels us from the lessons of his experience: “Each one of us has been our own share of grace”.  Yes, each one of us has a role to play in making Christ present in the world, as He wished for us to do. Can I be an apostle, prophet, pastor, teacher, peace maker, healer, welcome maker or servant?  

By taking up our role in the Church we build the Body of Christ anew. We become united in Faith, Hope and Love. We get to know the Son of God personally. As Saint Paul says we actually become the perfect “‘Person’ fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself.” (Eph 4:13) Yes, we become the presence of Jesus himself in our world.

We await the coming of the Spirit who will fill us with the fullness of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.