Ascension: A Crowning Glory
A homily by Brother Marc
Isaiah 2:1-5; Acts 1:1-12; Luke 24:36-53
When I try to feel what the followers of Jesus must have felt at the death of Jesus, I am thrown back onto my old memories of dispiriting situations.
When my mother’s father was living with us after my grandmother died in December 1950, he never spoke to us about his service as a soldier fighting with the Austro-Hungarian armies. Now he was particularly isolated with those experiences, living in the United States, no longer in his own home, with his wife gone, away from buddies who spoke the same language and could understand how it was fighting in North Africa. He spent a lot of time sitting outdoors gazing over the large meadows and broad horizons where we lived. Of course we tried to understand and were sympathetic; we were especially intrigued to learn of the bullet wound in his shoulder, physical proof he had really been there. He let me have his only souvenir from World War I: his old enamel-coated water canteen, shaped like a large flask, with its canvas carrying pouch.
My grandfather died peacefully as we stood around him waiting and praying.
I can just picture the gospel situation of the disciples, long after the original dislocation of being called to follow Jesus, having traveled back and forth on country roads with him for three years, being confronted with the trauma of the arrest, trial, crucifixion, and burial—but now receiving the unimaginable shock of the resurrection. I can hear them begin to come back to life themselves, babbling about the future, wondering when Israel’s time will come, and asking endless questions about what this all meant, barely waiting to hear the answers. I wonder how much they and Jesus were able to reflect on the recent past. Did they think or feel, as they might have a few months earlier, that these present moments might be the greatest moment of their lives? Or were they much more sober, scared but excited, self-conscious with guilt, but wiser? Amazingly, they were still all together, though some had to continue as fishermen.
Jesus must have told them what had happened to him. He instructed them and answered their questions. They would not have the time-line for a messianic restoration. He showed them his vision of the future. He blessed them. The he reassured them and left them once again, but on much different terms this time.
These apostles needed to reach a deeper self-respect and healing. Those forty days from the Resurrection to the Ascension seem to have been like an extended and intense retreat for them. It served as a preparation, but not quite a training, for what lay ahead.
This was a pivotal time for learning who they were, what they were, where they stood in the grand scheme of things. It was also a crucial time for Jesus, to fully demonstrate to them and to Israel, to those who heard the gospel and to the world, his true and eternal stature in the eyes of God.
They were to be the shoots of a new world, time, creation, humanity, relationship with God. Most importantly, they were assured that this was all in fulfillment of the Mosaic Law, the prophets, and the psalms. The scriptures would be a witness for them and continue to give them an authentic way to understand and talk about the reality of Christ and the true meaning of messiah.
Jesus told them to stay, pray, and wait. They were not yet able to appear in public. He promised soon to send the Advocate, counselor, and consoler to empower them for a new mission. They would be given the confidence and the authority they needed.
This Ascension, he said, and my physically leaving you, is the crucial moment to set things aright. You will inherit the 12 judgment seats of Israel, you will tell all about me to every nation starting here, and bring the message of survival and salvation in the face of what is coming. I am going to take up my position in heaven, and today is the authentic revelation and confirmation of who I am in eternity. My work was completed on the cross, and today this will all be fulfilled before your very eyes and in your hearing. Tell everyone what you see.
For now, first of all wait and pray together; that is where you will continue to find me, until I return as I am now.