Sunday, May 20, 2012

A Little Something Extra...Ascension of the Lord

Some Thoughts on the Ascension

1. St. Luke's account of the Ascension in Acts 1:6-10 begins with the disciples gathering together. The first community of Christians assembled. They already recognized the value of fellowship in the Body of Christ.

2. The little group had a question for Jesus Who was there with them. “Lord,” they asked, “are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” First, the question came from the whole group; they all wanted to know. Second, the Greek verb for “asked” here is ērōtōn. It is in the imperfect tense, which in Greek, refers to an action in progress. In other words, the disciples' question was not a one-time deal; they probably asked it repeatedly over time. The verb ērōtōn also implies a certain familiarity between those asking and the one being asked. The disciples were in a loving relationship with the risen Jesus. They knew they could ask Him anything.

3. Let's look more closely as the disciples' question: “Lord, are You at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” They were still thinking of the kingdom in an earthly, even political, way. They were hoping, perhaps, that Israel, raised up by the power of the risen Lord, would become a free and dominating force in the world, a ruling kingdom with political power. Their vision was still too narrow to allow them to see what Jesus was really doing or to perceive the real dimensions of the kingdom of God. Further, they wanted to know God's plan right that minute. They were not humbly content to wait for the mystery to be revealed on God's time.

4. Jesus didn't scold the disciples. He simply reminded them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by His own authority.” Think for a moment about your own life. Does Jesus ever say these words to you in the depths of your heart?

5. Jesus continued with a promise: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you...” The Greek word for “power” here, dunamin, has connotations of power in action; the power of God; both physical and moral energy; and even miraculous power. This was no small gift. It would change the disciples' lives.

6. Further, this power would lead the disciples to witness to Jesus in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and “to the ends of the earth.” The Word of God would spread throughout the entire world by the power of God acting in Jesus' followers. The Greek word for “witnesses” here is martures, and indeed, some of those witnesses of Jesus did become martyrs for Jesus when they gave their lives for their faith.

7. As the disciples looked on, Jesus ascended into Heaven and was received by a cloud. This cloud, the shekinah, indicated the presence and glory of God. Jesus was taken not into some remote other world but into the presence and glory of His Father.

8. Benedict XVI in his book Jesus of Nazareth: Holy Week says of the Ascension, “...the disciples do not feel abandoned. They do not consider Jesus to have disappeared far away into an inaccessible heaven. They are obviously convinced of a new presence of Jesus...He is now present to them in a new and powerful way...they know that He is now permanently among them, in the way that only God can be close to us.”

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