Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11
In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly 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.”
Brothers and sisters: May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
Jesus ascends to heaven and is no longer with us in the ways that He was during his lifetime and immediately after His Resurrection. It is not easy for us to understand completely all that happened in those days after the Resurrection and we must trust in the Scriptures that have been handed down to us. There is clearly an experience of Jesus truly risen from the dead and living in a completely different way from before His death. Then there is an experience of His absence before these early disciples receive the Holy Spirit.
So the first reading today, from the Acts of the Apostles, speaks directly of the experience of these early followers of Jesus, when they saw Him go up to heaven and disappear from their sight. There is a promise in this reading that He will return in the same way.
The second reading, from the Letter to the Ephesians, speaks in a less concrete manner, telling us that God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavens. This is an image because heaven, even in the Scriptures, is not seen as simply another part of our concrete world, but as a reality of a completely different type than we experience here. On the other hand, we always use earthly images to describe heaven because they are the images that we have.
The Gospel today, from Saint Matthew, gives us some of the last words of Jesus to His followers. The important words are that He will be with us to the end of time.
At the heart of this mystery of the Ascension is the reality that Jesus is not longer with His followers in the same way, but that He is always with us, even to the end of time. We do not always feel His presence. Sometimes we doubt His presence. Nevertheless, He is always present to us.
Because of this reality, we continue to ask for the Holy Spirit to be with us in a way that keeps us aware of the presence of Jesus in every aspect of our lives. We need to know the presence of Jesus and that presence is always with us in the Holy Spirit.
Our attention moves easily today from the Ascension to the presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, who will deepen the faith in our hearts if we ask that. Come, Holy Spirit! Help us understand these mysteries of our faith. Help us grow deeper in faith. Help us know your presence and the love of Jesus in our lives.