The Ascension of the Lord

Ascension Thursday
Acts 1:1-11
Psalm 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9 (6)
Ephesians 1:17-23
Mark 16:15-20
May 13, 2021

Today we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord.

The Ascension might seem like just a step along the way from the Resurrection to Pentecost.  In the chronology of the events, it is a step in the sequence of events but it is an important step.

The Ascension is important enough to be included in the words we profess in the Nicene Creed.  The Ascension is explicitly mentioned in some of the Eucharistic Prayers.  The Ascension is important enough that today we celebrate it as a solemnity and a holy day of obligation.

Clearly, the Ascension is not just a step along the way.

The Ascension is the last event mentioned in Mark’s Gospel before Apostles “went forth.”  It is Mark’s Gospel that tells us that Jesus “took his seat at the right hand of God.”  There, He mounts his throne and intercedes for us with the Father.

Luke presents the Ascension as an important transitional moment.  Luke, of course, wrote the Gospel of Luke.  He also wrote the Acts of the Apostles.  Today’s first reading comes from the very beginning of Acts.  Luke begins by speaking of “the first book.”  This “first book” is the Gospel of Luke.

In Acts, Luke reminds Theophilus that in the first book he wrote of everything that Jesus did “until the day he was taken up.”  Like Mark’s Gospel, Luke ends his gospel with a short mention of the Ascension.

Having presented the Ascension at the end of his gospel, Luke did not need to include it in the Acts of the Apostles but he did.  Why?

To show it as a pivotal moment. 

Now, in the story of Jesus there are lots of pivotal moments.  There is Jesus’ conception when Mary said yes to being the mother of Jesus.

There is Jesus’ birth that we celebrate at Christmas.

There is Jesus’ baptism as He begins his public ministry.

There is the Last Supper when He gives us the Eucharist.

There is his Crucifixion when He dies for us on the Cross so that our sins might be forgiven.

There is his Resurrection as He shows us that God has power even over death.  In his Resurrection He reveals eternal life to us.

So, what is the significance of the Ascension?  Why does Luke include it in both the end of his gospel and the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles?

It marks an end to the gospel as it is an end to Jesus’ time on earth.  His Crucifixion was the end of his earthly life and the Resurrection was the beginning of eternal life. 

The Ascension marks the end of the time when Jesus spoke directly on earth to his disciples.

The Ascension is also the beginning of a new time.  Jesus returns to his place at the right hand of the Father.  From there He watches over and cares for us.  He never forgets us.  He is our Savior forever.

He wants us to know this.  Jesus did not simply disappear.  He ascended with his disciples watching so that we would know where He went.  Jesus does not want it to be a secret where He went.  It is good news!

One might wonder why Jesus left his disciples.  Why didn’t He remain with his disciples here on Earth?

It was necessary, it was good, for Jesus to return to his place in Heaven.  He did not do this for his own glory.  He ascended for us.  Jesus himself had already told his disciples, “it is better for you that I go.  For if I do not go, the Advocate will not come to you.  But if I go, I will send him to you” (John 16:7).

Jesus’ Ascension was part of God’s plan.  Jesus did not abandon us.  He left so that the Advocate may come to us.  Who is this Advocate? 

It is the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit that deals in each of us.  The Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost.  For now, we wait…

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