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, I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, it says: He ascended on high and took prisoners captive; he gave gifts to men. What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended into the lower regions of the earth? The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things. And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature to manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ.
Gospel Cycle Cycle B
Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.
Jesus goes up to heaven! The end of the Easter Season is coming soon. The Acts of the Apostles, our first reading, tells us that the followers of Jesus still do not understand who He is or what He has done. That confusion continues until our present day. Far too often we try to use Jesus for our own goals, for the things that we want, rather than letting ourselves be formed by Jesus Himself. As we celebrate the Ascension this year, we can commit ourselves to seeking Him as He is and not as we want Him to be.
The second reading today is from the Letter to the Ephesians. It begins to give us a theology of the Ascension. Jesus goes up so that He can draw us up with Him. There are many gifts given in the Church and they are all given to form each one of us in the image of Christ Himself, to a mature humanity. This formation goes on all of our life. There is no point where we can claim that we are now completely formed. Why? Because we live a relationship with Jesus Christ, the living God, and all true relationships are always in process.
The Gospel of Mark today gives us the last words of Jesus to His followers. We must listen to them well, even today, so that we walk in His ways and not on our own. We must evangelize: going out of ourselves to draw others to the Lord. We must believe and be baptized and draw others to belief and baptism. We have a long history of getting people baptized, but very often without a firm faith. We must share our faith and evangelize others.
There will be signs! The most important sign, the early Church discovered, was that of love for one another. It must be the same today for us. Today we have Church buildings that are impressive but only the love of Jesus saves us. Today we have an enormous Church with more people in this Church that in any other single Church. That means nothing unless hearts are drawn to God in love. Today the Church has authority and power. Again, such authority and power are empty if it is not the authority and power of God’s love in Christ Jesus.
Jesus goes us to draw us up! May we believe and may our baptism become the strength within us to evangelize others and draw them to Christ by love.