UpFront with Mary Hendricks, 05/17/2015

The Ascension of the Lord

May 17, 2015

Acts 1:1-11

Luke, the writer of the Acts of the Apostles, addresses today’s first reading to “Theophilus.” Who’s he?

Well, literally speaking, it may be you.

Theolphilus means “friend of God.” Luke also mentions the name in the first chapter of his gospel. It could have been a real person; no one knows for sure. Or it could have been a group of people. In either case, if the shoe fits…

He gives us a summary: Jesus came to earth, taught, suffered, died, proved he had risen from the dead through appearances to the apostles, promised the Holy Spirit, and was “lifted up” into heaven.

Luke makes four important points in this account of the Ascension, the feast we celebrate today: 1) Jesus takes his place of honor; 2) he doesn’t leave us alone; 3) he gives his followers a mission; and 4) he’s coming back.

Place of honor: We see how joyous heaven was when the Son returned in our responsorial psalm today, Psalm 46. “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.” Can you imagine? The biggest ticker tape parade couldn’t match what was going on here. It gives me goosebumps to read it! Clapping, cries of gladness. It must have been one heck of a celebration. Jesus takes his rightful place next to the Father, the “great king over all the earth.” But, you know what I think? I bet that happens whenever anyone is welcomed into heaven.

Never alone: Jesus promises the Holy Spirit to the apostles. Sure, he is leaving this earthly life—he has been telling them that the whole three years they were together. They were in denial and never really paid attention when he said he had to return to the Father. Now, it’s real. He’s going home. The promise of the Spirit has to be a comfort, even though they don’t know what it means. They soon will.

The mission: You know how it is when the boss is away. There’s a feeling of languish. The apostles didn’t have a clue about what to do next. They were standing there, looking up at the sky. He knew they would be lost, so he gave them direction. Jesus was no micromanager, but he did expect his work to continue. He started his Church. They have to build it. You’re in it right now.

Return trip: The angels tell the apostles exactly what is going to happen: “This Jesus who was taken up into heaven will return in the same way you have seen him going up into heaven.” They aren’t told when, just how. This, too, is a comfort. And a little scary. You know how it is when the boss walks back into the office.

That’s a lot of information packed into just 11 verses, and just enough to send the apostles back to their little Passover room to hide for another ten days. But, man, watch out. Change is coming.

To be truthful, they weren’t ready for it. If the Holy Spirit hadn’t showed up, my guess is that they’d still be sitting around. But, change they did. We’ll find out about that next week. Stay tuned, friend of God.

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