The opening line of the Acts of the Apostles addresses the reader as “Theophilius” which means lover of God. Although Theophilius may have been an actual person it’s helpful for us to hear this account as a story addressed to each of us personally as lovers of God.
The Feast of the Ascension is a feast that celebrates a time between times; we have left one place on our journey but have not yet arrived at a second. The Ascension is the transition from the earthly ministry of Jesus to the experiences of the early Church. Today’s first reading makes it very clear that like the first Apostles, we are to concern ourselves with being Jesus’ witnesses to everyone we meet and that we have the power of the Holy Spirit to guide us for however that journey is for us.
Many of the Easter accounts direct our attention to the appearances of Jesus, which is intended to strengthen our belief in His bodily resurrection. The emphasis is on certain physical characteristics: He ate food, He invited Thomas to touch the wounds. Jesus seems to be saying, “I am the same one who walked with you before. This is the body you have always known.” At the Ascension, the Apostles stood awestruck, watching Jesus ascend to heaven. So like then, today is a day to be overwhelmed by the reality of the divinity of the one we have known in His humanity.
Even though He has left us physically, we do not live without Him as we wait for His return. He is present with us in a new way, in a new body, the Church. Christ carries on through His new body, the community of believers. We have not been left alone; we have His power, the same power with which He performed marvels when He walked the Earth.
That is why today we rejoice in this mystery, Jesus’ triumphant Ascension. We have not been left alone; led by the Holy Spirit, we have each other. Together we make up the new body of Christ. Together we await the fullness of this body. It is this new body that stands in between times, secure in what we have, confident of what we will be given, always reaching out in love.
Deacon Jim DeShane
Deacon, Director of Pastoral Care & Marriage Coordinator