WelCom June 2019:
Ascension Sunday: 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.
The Ascension Day of the Lord
A reflection on Luke 24:46-53
What does Luke’s version of the Ascension of Jesus mean for us today? Luke’s gospel ends with Jesus’ last instructions to his apostles, which are equally important for us. After issuing these instructions, Christ blessed his apostles, before being carried up to heaven.
Luke’s Ascension occurs on the first Easter Sunday, although in his prologue to the Acts of the Apostles, Luke has the Ascension occurring forty days after Jesus’ Resurrection. What is more important is what Jesus said rather than when it happened. Earlier in Luke’s final chapter, when Cleopas and his companion were on the Road to Emmaus, a stranger joined them. This stranger who they later recognised as Christ their Lord made them aware of the full message of the prophets, by teaching them why Christ had to suffer to enter into His Glory (Luke 24:26-27). Likewise, on the concluding verses that is today’s gospel, Jesus reminds His disciples how he had to suffer then rise from the dead for the purpose of forgiving all our sins. He then ordered his disciples to begin their preaching in Jerusalem, and to be aware that God the Father would send down an advocate to enlighten their minds with everything He had taught them. Jesus finally told them ‘that everything written about Him in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms would have to be fulfilled’ (Luke 24:44-45).
The Spirit of the Lord would come at Pentecost in the same way it comes to us at our Confirmation. We know Jesus is no longer here in physical form. Ascension Day was 2000 years ago with no gospels at that time for the apostles to refer to.
With Easter behind us we await our Pentecost. ‘The birthday of the Church’ We are to fulfil the obligation Jesus has commanded, and evangelise the world as our predecessors have done over the centuries. But evangelising the world today may need different techniques and strategies to what was appropriate back then. The word ‘evangelise’ itself has taken on a meaning that may be unhelpful in some circumstances. It imparts a church sub-culture that may be foreign and even objectionable to some people. This command requires us to share our faith in a way that is meaningful and relevant to the people around us. We could start by being loving and friendly and acting as our true selves, praying that His Advocate will give us the wisdom and courage to reach out and share our spiritual treasures with our neighbours, whoever they may be.
Tom Gibson, a retired Taranaki dairy farmer, is a parishioner at the Immaculate Conception Parish, Stratford.