In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.
While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. "This," he said, "is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."
So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."
All you peoples, clap your hands,
shout to God with cries of gladness.
For the Lord, the Most High, the awesome,
is the great king over all the earth. (R./)
God mounts his throne amid shouts of joy;
the Lord, amid trumpet blasts.
Sing praise to God, sing praise;
sing praise to our king, sing praise. (R./)
For king of all the earth is God;
sing hymns of praise.
God reigns over the nations,
God sits upon his holy throne. (R./)
I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.
Alternative 2nd Reading: Hebrews 9:24-28; 10:19-23
Christ our high priest has opened for us the door of salvation
For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made by human hands, a mere copy of the true one, but he entered into heaven itself, now to appear in God's presence on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself again and again, as the high priest enters the Holy Place year after year with blood that is not his own; for then he would have had to suffer again and again since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for mortals to die once, and after that the judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain (that is, through his flesh), and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.
Jesus said to his disciples, "So it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."
Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
Just before his ascension, Jesus gave some vital final instructions to the leaders who were to carry on his work after him. "You are witnesses of these things. And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised ... Your will be clothed with power from on high", is how St Luke interprets the Lord's Last Will and Testament. We will be more familiar with the version of those final instructions as given by St Matthew
In both cases, he sends them out to speak and act in his name, to spread the Gospel message and draw people into the family of God. It was a huge task, but he promises to give them whatever they will need to carry it out. Those who speak in his name, do so with his authority. The authority goes with the mission, so to speak. In Matthew's version he adds this great promise, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Luke's version is that they will be "clothed with power from on high", that is, inspired by the Holy Spirit.
The mission given by Jesus was simple to understand but hard to fulfil. It was to teach others all that he had taught them. Just as he asked his disciples to trust him, they were to ask that others should trust their guidance too. This is like when a doctor puts you on a course of antibiotics. A basic rule about antibiotics is to complete the course. The Gospel message of salvation must continue to be shared until the end of time. With all the changes in the church and in society, the two things that have not changed are Jesus himself and his message. The Message and the Messenger have not, and will not change. People troubled by changes in the church today should remember that the basics that matter have not changed at all.
You write a new page of the gospel each day,
through the things that you do and the words that you say.
Others read what you write, be it faithful or true.
So what is the gospel according to you?
The Lord is still with us at all times. If we trust in his presence, we can really feel ourselves "never less alone than when alone." We believe that he is with us always. As his disciples and co-workers, we too have the gift of the Spirit. We are "clothed with power from on high." If we let him be a guiding presence in our life, each day consciously aware of his presence, we can experience the Joy of the Gospel and share it with others as Jesus intends us to do.
In our speedy, digital age, waiting goes against the grain and we try to avoid it. We could learn from other cultures that have a more relaxed attitude towards time. Waiting is a necessary part of life. If we become ill, we have to wait until we are better before getting back to work. Everything has its own pace, its own rhythm. There is no point in getting impatient with the pace of others on whom we rely for help. It can also serve us well, if we learn something by having to wait that we might not otherwise have learnt.
Today we celebrate the Ascension, as the start of a valuable time of waiting. Jesus told his friends to wait in Jerusalem for the great gift they would need for their future work of sharing the Gospel. His words were, "Stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high." Some of them might have wanted to get straight down to work, feeling there was no time to waste. But he told them to take their time, to wait. He was asking them to tune in to God's time, rather than rush ahead. It was God's will they were meant to do, not their own. Having to wait until Pentecost was a necessary step. They could only do God's work when God's special gift was given and received.
We too need to wait on the Lord. The words of Jesus apply to us also, "You shall be my witnesses." We are meant to be his visible, bodily expression in the world. To do this we need God's prompting Spirit, and for that we need to pray. That is how those first disciples waited "until you are clothed with power from on high." After Jesus left, they went back to Jerusalem and were "continually in the Temple praising God." The Acts shows them gathered in an upper room, devoting themselves to prayer. For us too, waiting on the Lord takes the form of prayer, when we open ourselves to receive what we need to be his witnesses in the world.
Like the apostles and our Blessed Lady waiting for Pentecost, we are waiting on for the Spirit. Our prayer is more a quiet listening than asking for what we want. This prayer of waiting needs a quiet heart, and silence expresses it better than words. Waiting for others can be full of loving anticipation. The Ascension invites us to enter into that prayerful waiting as we prepare for Pentecost next Sunday.