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." Acts 1: 7-8
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. Matthew 28: 18-20
Dear God, every ending also is a new beginning. As we end this Easter season today with the Ascension of your Son, let us begin again to commit ourselves to you and your mission for us to share our love with you and with all those around us. Help us to continue to carry out that mission to bring glad tidings to the poor, not to the powerful and the celebrities. Help us proclaim freedom to those who are held captive by addictions and afflictions. Help us to make those blind to your love, see freshly again. Help us to live the life Jesus asked us to live and to share his love daily not just by hearing the words of the prophecy but by acting them out in our lives of piety, study and action. Amen.
Jesus spoke to his disciples (and ultimately to us) in a variety of ways – direct conversation, analogies, figures of speech. His message from the very outset was one that featured two prevailing themes – first that God loved us so much and wanted to be among us (His people, His children) so much that God sent his only son. It was only through our actions from Adam on through time, that we rejected the closeness to God. Secondly, to remain close to God, we had to distance ourselves from the prevailing views and attitudes of popular society and culture. He preached power to the powerless, hope to the hopeless, charity to those least likely to be helped by the kindness of strangers. Yet, he could only preach this if he lived that manifesto from Luke 4. After his temptation in the desert, Jesus returned to Galilee.
He came to Nazareth, where he had grown up, and went according to his custom into the synagogue on the Sabbath day. He stood up to read and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah. He unrolled the scroll and found the passage where it was written: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord." Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down, and the eyes of all in the synagogue looked intently at him. He said to them, "Today this scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing." Luke 4:16-21
As we mark Jesus' ultimate success, today is the final fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah. Jesus has now been set free and returns to his Father, to Our Father. We mark his daily presence among us as much by his departure as we do by his historical presence. Jesus leaves so that he can return. Jesus leaves so that he can remain with us. We have to let go of him, to share him back with the Father, in order to have him with us at all times. He has to leave us in order to be with us. We have to share him with others in order to allow him to dwell within us.
That may be hard for some people to understand. However, we don't have difficulty with that because we already have had to come to terms with the idea of dying in order to gain life, of suffering in order to be happy, of giving up all earthly power in order to accept the ultimate power and authority of heaven. The most powerful man who ever walked the earth came into the world like everyone else – a helpless babe in his mother's arms – and left the world the same way, a helpless man in his mother's arms.
We remember. We remember Jesus in the Nativity, a newborn baby full of life. Yet we had to let go of the baby so He could be about his father's work. We remember Jesus of the Passion and the Pieta, a lifeless body, abandoned by his friends, passing through his mother's arms one last time before the grave – seemingly defeated but not for long. A mere three days later, we also remember Jesus of the Resurrection triumphing over capital punishment at the hands of authorities. And finally, today, we remember Jesus of the Ascension…going away but leaving so much behind. We have his words passed on to us through Sacred Scripture. We have his physical presence passed on to us through the Eucharist. We have his grace bestowed upon us through the sacraments.
Pray the new Mysteries of the Rosary today…the Luminous Mysteries handed down to us by Pope John Paul II.
The Baptism of Jesus. Consider your baptism and the baptism of your children and others you know. Be thankful for the gift of faith.
The Wedding at Cana. Consider your parents wedding. Your wedding. Or your future wedding. Be thankful for the gift of fidelity.
The Proclamation of the Kingdom in the Sermon on the Mount. Consider the words of the sermons you have heard recently. Be thankful for your desire for piety.
The Transfiguration. Consider when you can gaze upon the face of the Lord…either in Adoration or in meeting your sisters and brothers in need. Whenever you do this for the least of those, you do it for Jesus. Be thankful for the gift of courage.
The Eucharist. Consider the last time you shared in the sacrament and the Mass. What did you bring to Mass as your sacrificial offering? What are you planning to bring the next time you go? Be thankful for God's presence among us.
Consider the extraordinary ordinary life of Jesus and how He walks with us still today. You are called to bring these Luminous Mysteries to others in your Fourth Day.
Pray for us, Mother of God, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ. Amen.