Did the Ascension Happen?
Jun 15, 2019
The Gospel reading today comes at the end of Luke’s Gospel and immediately precedes the Acts of the Apostles. In fact, the intervening time is the very first Novena… the Novena to the Holy Spirit. I had tried to include it in the bulletin, but sadly, it would have taken up almost every available page. If you would like to pray the Novena to the Holy Spirit, I posted the prayers, reflections, and instructions on my blog at https://www.olow.org/blog/jason.
I spent several hours researching the Ascension gospel readings, the prophets that referred to the resurrection, and the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. I was surprised by the number of times I came across articles, including Catholic, non-denominational Christian, and secular, that questioned if the Ascension of the Lord really happened.
While the gospel this week is from Luke, the answer can be found in the Gospel of John:
Jesus said to her, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” (John 20:17)
So, there you go. The Ascension was about to happen and Jesus’s ministry was not yet done. Luke presents a slightly different take on Jesus than the other Gospels, in my view. Luke creates an image of Jesus as a suffering savior: And he said to them, “Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day “ (Luke 24:46) Luke is referencing two passages from the Old Testament: Isaiah 53 and Hosea 6:2, but also the New Testament: Luke 9:22.
Why am I bringing all this up? This passage conjures an image of parents for me. A couple of weeks ago, I talked about the love that Jesus commanded of his Apostles at the Last Supper after Judas had departed from them. For those of you who are parents (and for everyone else who has parents), think for a moment about the unconditional love that parents have for their children.
A parent’s love is different than the love that Jesus commanded of the Apostles. Jesus spoke about love in the sense of service. Parents, in addition to an emotional love, also express the love of service to their children.
My parents sacrificed a great deal for my sister and I. I could never compare their sacrifices to the incredible sacrifices of Jesus during his Passion, death, and resurrection, yet the parallels are there. Parents, what have you suffered in order to sacrifice for your children? Time, energy, money. Children, what suffering have you caused your parents by choosing not to honor them or deliberately choosing to do something that you knew was wrong?
The ministry of Jesus, the suffering servant, did not end during his Passion or even during his death. In fact, it continues unabated during the period after his resurrection until his Ascension. The Ascension marks the transition of the ministry from Jesus to the Apostles when he promises the Holy Spirit will come to them. Jesus told them in today’s Gospel that He was sending the promise of the Father.
After the emotional ups and downs, those closest to Jesus were able to witness the great joy of seeing his human form taken up into the heavens and all the while, he continued serving by blessing them. It remains now for us.