In the gospel of Matthew, we have Matthew’s version of the Ascension. The eleven disciples are invited to meet Jesus on the mountain. Matthew tells us that when the disciples and Jesus meet, some of the disciples worshipped Jesus and some of the disciples doubted that it was even him. Think about that folks – some doubted that it was him. We, are then told that the disciples (the worshippers and the doubters), are given a mission by Jesus. Jesus shares with them his authority and asks them to make disciples of people from all nations baptizing them and teaching them to obey the commands of Jesus. Before disappearing from their sight Jesus reminds them that he will be with them until the end of the age.
As we read sacred scripture today it is important to remember that the same author wrote the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. These two books need to be read together because they are one story. In our text from the Acts of the Apostles we are reminded that the gospel follows the life of Jesus from his birth to his resurrection – the Acts of the Apostles begins to trace the disciples of Jesus from the Resurrection to the early foundation of the Christian community. Today we pick up the story of Jesus as he meets with the disciples and reminds them to remain in Jerusalem and to wait for the coming of the Spirit. He then disappears from their sight. Their eyes are fixed on the Jesus they knew and it is the angels who remind them that their work is here – their focus ought to be here and not on the past.
Our second reading is from Paul’s letter to the Christians at Ephesus. Paul prays that the early Christians welcome the Spirit of Jesus and allow the power of the Spirit to be unleashed in their lives. Paul reminds the Ephesians that Jesus has received the fullness of God’s power and not only that, Jesus has been made the head of all believers, the Church.
As I prayed with the texts a couple of things struck me:
The Church has a duty to preach salvation to all. The Gospel message is not reserved to a small group of the elect or privileged but is destined for everyone. There is anguish in the Church of Christ because there are exhausted crowds like sheep without a shepherd who hunger for the liberating word of God that offers hope and life. The word of God must be spoken, shared, proclaimed and lived.”
This is the mission – the work of all of us and not just the deacons, priests and bishops. This mission is given to us by Christ.
4. We have been gifted with the Holy Spirit – the Spirit is at work in us, doing all sorts of good things. This is God’s promise and gift.
5. We are not alone – Even though Jesus has returned to the Father we are not alone and the mission that is ours is not ours alone – it has been given to us by Jesus and he will stand by us. How? In and through the presence of the Spirit.
So how might these scriptures touch us?
The time we are living in right now is a fearful time – we are concerned about Covid-19 – concerned about our financial future – concerned about the well-being of our earth/dangers of climate change – we are concerned about when our lives will return to normal – we are curious/concerned about what that normal will be – we are concerned about when we will be able to gather, to celebrate our faith and to receive the Body of Christ.
We have many concerns – into the midst of our concerns Jesus comes and says:
My friends, God is still at work in our world right here and right now. We might feel confused and unsure about our faith and how strong it is. While we have no clue as to what tomorrow will be like, we can do something about today. Jesus is calling us to do something today! We cannot change the past and we cannot look into the future and know what will be. We are invited to trust that God is at work in us today. We are not alone. Because of Christ we can do the impossible, the unthinkable, that which scares us, takes us out of our comfort zone.
This week I invite you to sit with the knowledge that Jesus needs you – the Spirit is alive in you, as near as your breath - you will not be abandoned - ever.
If perchance you feel alone, pause and take time to listen as Jesus says to you, “I am with you always until the end of the age!”
And then tell yourself, “I am never alone, Jesus is with me until the end of the age!” As you hear those words, believe in your goodness and believe in your desire to please God in all things! Believe in the God who loves you!
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI