'The Surpassing Greatness of His Power' by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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John wrote to show that Christ was
the Messiah, the Divine Son of God.
Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come. Give glory to your son, so that your son may glorify you, just as you gave him authority over all people, so that he may give eternal life to all you gave him. Now this is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and the one whom you sent, Jesus Christ. I glorified you on earth by accomplishing the work that you gave me to do. Now glorify me, Father, with you, with the glory that I had with you before the world began.
"I revealed your name to those whom you gave me out of the world. They belonged to you, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you gave me is from you, because the words you gave to me I have given to them, and they accepted them and truly understood that I came from you, and they have believed that you sent me. I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for the ones you have given me, because they are yours, and everything of mine is yours and everything of yours is mine, and I have been glorified in them. And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you."
Today, the Church remembers the precious moment in history when Jesus Christ, already risen from the dead, ascended into heaven and was seated at the right hand of our All-powerful Father. St. Luke recounts in the Acts of the Apostles that, after addressing the apostles, Jesus "was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight" (Acts 1:9).
Today's reading from Acts, Matthew and Ephesians each address the mystery of the Ascension in the light of a common theme: the power of God. In Matthew's Gospel, Jesus transfers power to the apostles. "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations . . ." (Mt 28:18). Jesus was about to leave the earth and He wanted to confirm one last time that He intended to hand on power and authority to those whom He had called and prepared for leadership in the Church. So, the apostles were given authority and power to make disciples, to celebrate the sacraments and to teach us to observe all that He had commanded.
In the account of the Ascension that comes to us from the first chapter of Acts, the Lord tells the Apostles that they will "receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses . . ." He gives them a special power to bear witness to Him, a power that comes from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I am reminded of a 23 year-old young adult who recently bore witness to Jesus in a powerful way to me and several hundred other Christians. She stood up in front of a Church packed with mourners at her mother's funeral and very gracefully and courageously talked about an abiding sense of peace in her heart because she knew that her mother had gone to her real home in heaven. She then said that she looks forward to the day when she might join her mother and be at home with the Lord for eternity. Filled with the Holy Spirit, she bore witness to Christ with great power that afternoon.
St. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, prays for the disciples that they may know "the surpassing greatness of the power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of (the Father's) great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens . . ." (Eph 1:19-20). Christians are given a share in the vary same power which God, the All-powerful Father used to raise his Son and restore Him to his right hand. I am encouraged to accept this truth when I think of the power of Blessed Theresa of Calcutta to impact the world through her simple, yet amazing service to the poorest of the poor. When I think of Pope John Paul II's ability to capture the attention of billions of people because of his deep faith in God, I am again convinced this power is real.
Lord, we marvel this day at Your power and love. Your Son rose from the dead, was taken up to heaven and seated at Your right hand. With that same power, He commissioned Your Church to make disciples of all nations, baptize in the name of the Holy Trinity and bear witness to Christ in our world. Enlighten, in Paul's words, "the eyes of our hearts" to this surpassing power in our own lives. Amen.
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