Most dioceses of the USA will celebrate the Ascension this Sunday, and my reflection will be on that Feast’s Readings.
Matthew and Mark tell us that after the Resurrection and various appearances, Jesus was taken up into the heavens. No hint of when: it could have been as early as Easter evening. John’s Gospel concludes with a post-resurrection appearance in Galilee, and Paul cites a tradition of several appearances. The Acts of the Apostles mentions a period of 40 days – which is why the Church celebrates the Ascension 40 days after Easter (wow – where does time go!).
Although interesting, it’s a mistake to focus on the chronology, or to wonder about Jesus’ whereabouts during those post-resurrection days. Today’s Feast is not about when something happened (Jesus left the earth), but what it is that happened.
What happened is that Jesus’ ascension opened for us a whole new way of life, guided and inspired by the Holy Spirit. We’ve become a new creation. In the first creation God breathed on the clay and fashioned Adam, who thereby became a living being (Genesis 2:7). In this second creation, Jesus breathed on his disciples on that first Easter evening (John 20:22), thereby forming them into a new humanity. The Greek word used for “breathed” occurs in just those two places in the entire Bible. That can’t be an accident.
This new creation is magnificently described in the Second Reading. Jesus is now head of the Church, which is His body, “the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” Read that carefully: you and I are a part of His Body which fills the entire world in every possible way. We are not independent individuals who speak and do things in isolation. What we do, say and think has a direct impact on our world. May the Spirit inspire us to bear that responsibility with courage and dignity.
Be God’s smile for someone today!!!
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.