Year A: The Ascension of the Lord

Christ is raised up to heaven and prepares the disciples for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

A row of votive candles burning.

Acts 1: 1-11; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28:16-20

According to the Gospels, after the Resurrection, Jesus talked to his disciples! We, Christians take for granted what to others might appear totally not real. That aside, what did he talk to them about?  He continued the great Divine-Human dialogue. He spoke of ‘The Kingdom of God’. It is amazing that Jesus did not demand so much to be worshipped (we do not always avoid the temptation so to do!) as to be followed! (which is much harder.)  Not worship directed out there somewhere, but transformation directed to within!  He spoke, not about Himself but about the kingdom of God. The disciples even then retreat into the narrow world of nationalism and the only politics they know: ‘Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’ The Divine dialogue gets pulled down from talk of the Kingdom of God to talk of the kingdom of Israel!  We still want to reduce the divine to the ‘merely human’, our own frail categories of tribe and clan. But the way to being fully human is the way of dialogue with the Divine.  Jesus does not so much point out the error of their ways as gently remind them of the unstoppable nature of the dialogue unleashed – to be shown to them by the Holy Spirit in their new mission: ‘You will be my witnesses not only in Jerusalem but throughout Judaea and Samaria (their world) and indeed to the ends of the earth.’ Impossible mission!  They wait around watching Jesus go. But the logic of the dialogue has been revealed: it is universal, inclusive and for the entire world. Their boundaries are gently set aside, and their horizons rendered limitless! 

Paul knows that the effect of being participants in the Divine dialogue literally requires a new mind, a new mental framework.  His mind is expanded. The Christ of dialogue demands a response. But it also brings wisdom, perception, full knowledge and enlightenment.  It is powerful. It raises the dead to life. Now Paul has insufficient words to describe the power of God – it raises Christ beyond any and all other powers in heaven, on earth, now and forever, it makes Christ the ruler of everything. And as head of the Church – ‘which is his Body’ it is the sign and sacrament of him who fills the whole creation. Paul is ecstatic and is lost in the torrent of his imagination. But it makes sense so much that if Paul was crying with tears of joy at his insight – he is forgiven!

Matthew is so honest. He has a plain, straightforward tale to tell. Eleven set out to meet Jesus, (he is dead!) as arranged by him. They meet him and fall down. ‘THOUGH SOME HESITATED’! Jesus has his own agenda – it is not about them per se, or about himself as someone to be worshipped, but about their role as dialoguers – extenders and spokespeople: ‘Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations (not just the locals) …. I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’  The unique nature of this dialogue is so simply put by Matthew. Jesus has his eyes fixed on the whole of humanity. The disciples are loved as friends for their own sakes but also because they are to be proclaimers of dialogue to the ends of the earth forever!  All nations are to be disciples. They go from being Israelite nationalists to being saints of inclusivity – all nations are to inherit the kingdom of God.