Ascension of our Lord—Cycle B—2018
FIRST READING 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.”
SECOND READING Ephesians 4:1-13
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 Mark 16:15-20
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.
My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
Jesus was born for us, suffered for us, died for us, was raised from the dead for us. Now Jesus returns to the Father to show us the way. All that Jesus does, is done for us. Jesus comes into the world to save us and draw us to Himself and to lead us to the Father.
The first reading today, from the Acts of the Apostles, gives an account of the Ascension of the Lord. The last words of Jesus to His followers in this account are these: “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.” It is clear that the Holy Spirit, although poured out already, has not been poured out on all. This power of the Holy Spirit will change the whole shape of the Church, the shape of the community of those who follow the Lord. Most specifically, the Holy Spirit will give power to the believers to give public witness to Jesus Christ.
The second reading today is from the Letter to the Ephesians and meditates on what it means to ascend and to descend. We can ponder these words from this portion of the Letter to the Ephesians: ”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.”
It is clear that we are all called to be one, one in the Spirit, one because of our baptism, one because there is only one God and Father of us all. What a wonderful way of calling all of us to unity in the Church!
And in today’s Gospel from Saint Mark, we have again the challenge to proclaim our faith. “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.” We can proclaim the Gospel because we have been given the Spirit by Jesus Christ. As we prepare to celebrate the great solemnity of Pentecost, we begin with the challenge of the Ascension: Jesus goes up to heaven. Jesus is now at the right hand of God. Jesus will send us the Spirit in a special way on Pentecost. As people who believe, we are challenged to proclaim our faith in our words, in our actions and in our thoughts.
Jesus does not call only those who have some kind of position in the Church. No! Jesus calls each one of us to be faithful and to proclaim our faith in Him. Our Church is the assembly of believers. Yes, we have leadership! Yes, the leadership has authority! That authority is to continue to challenge each of us to live our faith and to proclaim our faith to everyone.
Your brother in the Lord,