TKelly homily Ascension A 230521
We stand in a transitional point with today’s liturgy. Luke tells us in the first reading that the event of the ascension is the last event of the first volume of his work, the Gospel according to Luke, which dealt with the life and ministry of Jesus until the time of the Ascension. And the Ascension is the first happening in this his second volume, the Acts of the Apostles. From a theological point the Ascension brought to a closure the earthly activity of Jesus while at the same time pushing the apostles into their ministry. The Ascension is a turning point in the life of the Church.
The disciples have been instructed by the Lord; he has been with them since his death and resurrection assuring them that he still lives and that his Spirit will come to them. The question of the disciples, “if the kingdom would be restored at this moment” is not a lack of faith on their part but rather a realization of what Jesus has accomplished. The disciples realize that they are now in the end-time. They want to know what the new kingdom will look like. Jesus has told them that it is the Holy Spirit who is still to instruct them on the mission to realize the fullness of the end; experience what the Church will be like.
The reading from Ephesians is a prayer of hope that the Father of the Lord Jesus give us the Spirit – a Spirit of wisdom and revelation that will give us knowledge of the Father. With the gift of the Spirit, Paul prayers that the eyes of our heart will be enlightened that we may experience what is the hope that encourages and sustains us to be a disciple of Jesus. The hope is to be seated with Jesus who is at the right hand of the Father by his resurrection and ascension.
Our Gospel from Matthew is a vignette of the last meeting of the chosen followers and the Master. Although they are gathered on a mountain top there is not an explicit indication of Jesus being taken-up, ascending. The meeting seems to be one of deep comprehension on both sides and the strong exhortation by Jesus to the disciples to proclaim to all the nations; baptize them; to teach them everything. And the strong word of hope and consolation – “I am with you always”.
There is another aspect to the ascension of the Lord in addition to the continued presence of Jesus in our midst in the Church. Jesus by ascending is bringing into the eternal kingdom the very humanity that he has lived while in the midst of this world. He is bringing into eternity the way of life that you and I experience. He has taken with him the humanity that he had assumed, the frail flesh, the trembling heart, the human mind. What I am; what you are; Jesus assumed. What Jesus assumed has entered into eternal glory. When we encounter the beatific vision, we will meet the human reality of Jesus. And so, my faith and my consolation are founded on this: Jesus has taken with him everything that is mine, everything that is yours. He has ascended and sits at the right hand of the Father. And that is where we expect to be.
Jesus takes on our likeness only to give us his own reality – the eternal inexpressible reality that Jesus received from the Father – that he gives us in his Spirit. We can receive that gift because Jesus returned to the Father with all that is ours and so made it possible for us to share in God’s own life.
We have heard this word of hope as we have gathered for this Eucharist. In this Eucharist this same Jesus is with us, giving his self to the Father by his death. We are sharing in this event by giving our lives in the hope of sharing eternal life with Jesus and our brothers and sisters at the righthand of the Father.