Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, NY
Tony Cayless, AHC
RCL - Ascension Day A - Thursday 01 May 2008
In the Acts of the Apostles - our first reading - Luke refers to Jesus' last Resurrection appearance. It was in the Upper Room of John Mark's mother's house. There were about 120 persons gathered there and we read: when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." Then he led them out as far as Bethany, and, lifting up his hands, he blessed them. While he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.
The period between Ascension and Pentecost is a period of waiting. Those men and women who had been attracted to Jesus, become followers of Jesus, been taught by Jesus, been eye witnesses of the Resurrection, were told to go into Jerusalem and wait, wait for the promise of the Father. The promise was the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost. They returned to Jerusalem with great joy; and they were continually in the temple blessing God.
This Feast reminds us that we still live between the times. The Ascension Event when the physical presence of Jesus the Christ was withdrawn is in the past. The parousia when the Lord will become present in power and with great glory is in the future. This between the times is the age of the Church.
When the Word became human the Word accepted all the limitations of human nature. The human Jesus was born, lived, ministered, died and rose again in a particular place and at a particular time in the history of this world. The Word made Flesh, the Incarnate Lord, like us was capable of being be in one place at one time only. The ascended Jesus can be present at all times and in all places.
After the Ascension Jesus in his resurrection body made no more appearances. The Incarnate Word of God had ended that phase of the mission. The reconciliation between God and humanity is accomplished by God putting God's self in our environment at the Incarnation, and by humanity being put in God's environment at the Ascension.
The Ascension is the taking of our human nature into that territory where never before were we allowed to go.
The kind of people that we human beings are is illustrated in the ancient and true myth of Adam and Eve. Because of their wrong choices they were cast out of paradise. Then we are told: God placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life. For Adam and Eve there was no going back to Eden.
For the rest of humankind there is no going back anywhere. We can never go back, but we can go forward and look forward to the time when St. John the Divine says the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign forever and ever.
Our human nature is in heaven in the person of Jesus Christ. St. Augustine said "this festival confirms the grace of all the festivals of the church together, for without the Ascension, the reality of every festival would perish. Unless the savior had ascended into heaven, his nativity would have come to nothing and his passion would have born no fruit for us, and his most holy resurrection would have been worthless".
There is a story that when Jesus arrived back in Heaven the Archangel Gabriel asked him what plans he had made to ensure that God's mission would continue on earth. Jesus replied, "I have left my Church, The apostles Peter and James and John, Andrew, and seven others whom I appointed, and my Mother Mary, my friends Mary, Martha and Lazarus of Bethany, Cleopas, Mark, Bartimaeus, Johanna, Susanna, and about a 100 others. They have been commissioned to go out into all the world and make more disciples. They will carry out my mission". "But" said the Archangel, "But what if they should fail?" Jesus answered firmly: "I have made no other arrangements."
No other arrangements. Just the Church as it was then and just the Church as it is now. . . . . Including us! AMEN
COME LORD JESUS! Be known to us in the Breaking of the Bread.