The conclusion at the end of Luke’s Gospel contains a surprise. “While he blessed them, he parted from them, and was carried up into heaven. And they worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.”24:51
Why were they full of joy at his definitive departure? They are obviously convinced of a new presence of Jesus. He has a new manner of presence with them.
This feast teaches us about our final destiny and our present mission. Our final destiny is union with the Risen Lord with his Father in the glory of heaven. Our present mission is to bear witness to the Word of God.
Jesus came into the world, was born, lived, suffered, died, rose from the dead and ascended into glory. In his glory with the Father he sent the Holy Spirit. We too have been born, live, suffer, will die, share in Christ’s resurrection and go to our glory too. For too many people birth, life, suffering and death are experiences apart from God.
St. Paul writing to the Christians of his time, prayed: “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what the hope that belongs to his call is, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believein this age but also in the one to come.”
For St. Paul life in the Spirit of Jesus Christ was special. Life with Jesus was like light, life without Jesus is like darkness. We are called to know this life with Jesus; we are called to know his light and life.
Jesus said “Wait for the fulfillment of my Father’s promise, of which you have heard me speak. John baptized with water, but within a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit,.” the baptism of the Holy Spirit. If someone were to ask you if you have been baptized, you would say yes. Have you been baptized with the Holy Spirit? The Acts of the Apostles speak several different times about baptism of the Holy Spirit.
We know that heaven, glory, being with God is our final destiny. But sometimes we are like the apostles in the first reading of today. We sometimes “stand looking up at the skies.” The apostles are told, “This Jesus who has been taken from you will return, just as you saw him go up into the heavens.” Like the Apostles then we must be about our present mission. We should not be overly concerned about the time of the Second Coming of the Lord. We should be concerned about receiving “power when the Holy Spirit comes down upon you; then you are to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, yes, even to the ends of the earth.” Isn’t that something? We who are gathered here have received this witness going all the way back to Jesus and the Apostles. We too are to be witnesses of Jesus in our own time and in our own city. Pope Paul VI said, “Modern man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if he does listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses.” Pope Francis has repeated these words. We too are to know the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our final destiny is not yet. We are a pilgrim church, a people on the way. We will experience in our life, sufferings, disappointments, discouragement, mistrust, broken promises, frustrations, etc. All of this will continue to be part of our life. We are “not Yet” at our final destiny. We must look forward in hope to the time of glory when every tear will be wiped away and we will see you our God as you are. We realize that eye has not seen nor ear heard nor has it entered into our hearts the things God has prepared for those who love him. But we must not stand gazing heavenward to the detriment of carrying out our witness in the world today. Besides our final destiny, being a Christian means living in the here and now. We are to live in contact with Christ ascended. We are to work for the building up of Christ’s body. We are to love one another. We are to receive the power of the Holy Spirit for this work. Let us ask God to help us to prepare for the Feast of Pentecost. Let us ask God to send the Holy Spirit into our lives. May we be strengthened for our present mission of witnessing and look forward with hope to our final destiny.
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