Brand-new Day for the World
by Rev. Jack Peterson, YA
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Written by Luke to explain that
Christ came to save everyone.
And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." Then he led them as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.
This week, we gratefully remember the Ascension, that day when Jesus’ disciples watched as He ascended into heaven 40 days after He rose from the dead on Easter Sunday. The disciples stood and watched as Our Lord “parted from them and was taken up to heaven.” A detail worth highlighting here is the contrast with the Resurrection of Christ, which none of the disciples witnessed. They witnessed the resurrected Jesus, but not the Resurrection itself. The Father desired, on the other hand, that the Ascension be witnessed by Jesus’ followers. Perhaps watching Our Lord be lifted up and transported on a cloud out of their sight sealed the disciples’ commitment to being Jesus’ hands, heart and feet in the world.
Both our first reading from Acts of the Apostles and our Gospel from Luke recount this event for us. This is not surprising since they both were authored by Luke the Evangelist. One common feature of these two accounts is that they make reference to the imminent coming of the Holy Spirit. The mystery of Jesus’ Ascension is intimately tied with the mystery of the coming of the Advocate. Furthermore, both readings reference the “power” that will come to the disciples as a result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. “And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49).
This power flowing from the Advocate will transform their hearts and lives, make them brand new creatures and enable them to imitate Christ in the most remarkable ways. In fact, Jesus will boldly state: “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go the Father” (Jn 14:12).
About two weeks ago on April 29, we celebrated the feast of St. Catherine of Sienna. She was a woman of extraordinary faith in Jesus Christ, which manifested itself in powerful and inspiring ways. The depth of her prayer, the height of her contemplation, the measure of her virtue (needed to help reform religious life), and the beauty of her courage (needed to convince the pope to return to his proper residence in Rome after so many years in Avignon) are but a few highlights of God’s power working in her life.
Returning to the Ascension, St. Luke highlights another reality that marked that beautiful day. The disciples respond to Jesus’ departure by offering Our Lord homage and returning “to Jerusalem with great joy.” This response to Jesus’ departure is in stark contrast to their response the last time Jesus left them. On Good Friday, the disciples responded with crushing doubt, fear and sadness.
This day was different. The disciples’ encounters with the risen Lord, their brightened awareness of their great mission to bring the good news to every corner of the earth, and their anticipation of the coming of the Holy Spirit resulted in fervent worship and great joy. May each celebration of the Ascension in every church around the world this week be marked by deep joy and reverent homage of Jesus Christ.
Finally, on this marvelous day of the Ascension, the risen Jesus ascends into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. Humanity enters heaven this day. Heaven become our true home. Jesus carves a path to His eternal home for every one of His adopted brothers and sisters, redeemed by His precious blood. This great truth must not be overlooked.
The Ascension of Jesus is a cause of the greatest hope. We are invited and the way is paved for believers to be drawn into the very life and love of God for all eternity. We have been given the unfathomable privilege of sitting near Jesus at the right hand of the Father, gazing upon the very face of God forever and ever. We have been offered the chance to participate in the intimate, filial relationship that Jesus has with the Father, sharing in their love and unity. Again, this truth of reality must be celebrated with profound joy. It is a brand-new day for the whole world.
In the words of Psalm 47, “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.”
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