Scripture: Lectionary 59: Ascension Thursday. Acts 1:1-11. Psalm 47:2-3.6-7.8-9. Matthew 28:16-20:
It is Luke who tells us that Jesus remained among his disciples through forty days after his resurrection. We realize that Luke is speaking beyond our ordinary time of reckoning and actually has said that Jesus already ascended on the day of the Resurrection. His theological perspective must be kept in mind that Jesus does appear and remain with us during an extended period of time and we see the different dimensions of his thought by comparing what we find in Acts 1:1-11 with what was said in his Gospel in Luke 24: 50-53. Biblical inspiration is not the same as we Westerns often think of it; it goes beyond our literalism into the realm of the spiritual and non-chronological. Similar to kairos time (God’s time and liturgical celebration time) and not chronos ( our clock time). It is the contemplation of a divine event—the Resurrection and the Ascension.
We have the best description of the Ascension in the Acts of the Apostles 1:1-1. One easily sees the similarity in this last account to the Resurrection appearances. We must remember that Luke is an omniscient author and knows the full story better than we do. He also is a theological historian who is able to make his sources come alive with his literary abilities. Inspiration does not prevent the individual talents to work at full speed in the respective Gospels. They are more kerygmatic and theological works that are witnessing and proclaiming the divinity as well as the humanity of Jesus. You cannot confine Jesus to just the historical Jesus especially when you look at the intention of the Evangelist. In the liturgy we emphasize more the theological and faith development of the narratives rather than our pension to be more archive and logical placement of ideas. There is more freedom in the Scriptures than we imagine.
Our first reading is very important for understanding the rest of the Acts of the Apostles. It gives us the necessary overview and perspective of how and why the Church begins with Pentecost and continues throughout the ages reaching all nations at the time they were written and now as the Gospel and the New Testament continue to come alive in those who believe, proclaim, and witness to the Gospels and the rest of the writings of the New Testament. There are 27 distinct writings.
Our narrative describes the two angels who summon the apostles to their mission after they await the coming of the Holy Spirit in the Cenacle in Jerusalem. “ Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking up at the skies? This Jesus who has been taken from you will return, just as you saw him go up into the heavens.” (Acts 1:11). “In Acts Jesus ascends so that as Lord he can fulfill the promises of the gift of the Spirit and of the spread of the Word to the ends of the earth.” (Fr.Karris, O.F.M.).
Matthew’s narrative is taken from the very last paragraph of his Gospel giving us a great insight into his intention as an evangelist as he pulls together and synthesizes its purpose. The believers led by the apostles are called to go forth and teach all nations and lead them to the sacrament of Baptism. Today we are called to be apostles and missionaries who bring the Good News, the God News, to all peoples. The founder of the Marianists said he wanted to be known as a “missionary apostolic” and his followers are summoned to do the same as he tells them, “You are all missionaries.” We are to make the Scriptures come alive by our witnessing to them by the way we live and speak. Quite a challenge amidst the confusing noises that surround us! We are to keep our churches and parishes alive and thus fulfill the words of the Gospel which promises us that Jesus is always there for us. “And know that I am with you always, until the end of the world.” (Matthew 28:20).
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.