May 12, 2013 Ascension of the Lord
In the dioceses of Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Nevada,
Utah, California and Hawaii the Ascension of the Lord is celebrated on
the Sunday following Ascension Thursday. This has been done for the
last few years in the western provinces of the North American church
because the Ascension is too important to ignore and the celebration on
Thursday was not getting the attention that it was due. The readings
call us to reflect on the meaning of the Ascension and on our
relationship with the Risen and Ascended Lord.
First Reading: Acts 1: 1-11
1 In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and
taught 2 until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions
through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. 3 He
presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered,
appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of
God. 4 While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from
Jerusalem, but to wait for "the promise of the Father about which you
have heard me speak; 5 for John baptized with water, but in a few days
you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit."
6 When they had gathered together they asked him, "Lord, are you at
this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" 7 He answered them,
"It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has
established by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the
Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." 9 When he
had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud
took him from their sight. 10 While they were looking intently at the
sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood
beside them. 11 They said, "Men of Galilee, why are you standing there
looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into
heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into
NOTES on First Reading:
* 1:1-2 These verses act as an introduction to Acts and connect Acts
with the Gospel of Luke which is generally taken to have been written
by the same writer.
* 1:3-5 These verses show that the apostles were instructed by the
risen Jesus. This sense of continuity between the teaching of Jesus and
the teaching of the disciples (Church) was very important to the early
* 1:3 Luke considered the interval in which the appearances and
instructions of the risen Jesus occurred to be especially sacred and in
Acts he expressed it in terms of the sacred number forty (see Deut
8:2). In the scriptures forty is often used to indicate a special time
in which God accomplishes a special task in and among His people. It
implies a time that is sufficiently long to accomplish God's purpose.
In Luke's gospel, however, Luke connects the ascension of Jesus with
the resurrection by describing the ascension on Easter Sunday evening
(Luke 24:50-53). What might better be understood as one event
(resurrection, glorification, ascension, sending of the Spirit--the
paschal mystery) has been historicized by Luke when he writes of a
visible ascension of Jesus after forty days and the descent of the
Spirit at Pentecost.
For Luke, the ascension marks the end of the appearances of Jesus
except for the extraordinary appearance to Paul. With regard to Luke's
understanding of salvation history, the ascension also marks the end of
the time of Jesus' direct action in the world (Luke 24:50-53) and
signals the beginning of the time of Jesus' action through the Church
as the normal means of carrying out His Mission.
* 1:4 The promise of the Father is, of course, the gift of the Holy
Spirit which the next verse makes clear. This gift of the Spirit was
first promised in Jesus' final instructions to his chosen witnesses in
Luke's gospel (Luke 24:49) and it formed part of the continuing
instructions of the risen Jesus on the kingdom of God, which Luke
speaks of in Acts 1:3.
* 1:6-11 Here Luke assures us that the parousia (second coming in
glory) of Jesus will occur just as certainly as His ascension occurred.
* 1:6 The question asked by the disciples implies that they are still
attempting to fit Jesus and His ministry into their expectations of a
political leader who would restore self-rule to Israel. Since He had
not done so, they ask if it is to take place now, in the time of the
* 1:7 This verse echoes the previous tradition that the precise time of
the parousia is not revealed to human beings. See Mark 13:32; 1 Thes
* 1:8 As Jerusalem was the city of destiny in the Gospel of Luke, here
at the beginning of Acts, Jerusalem also has a central importance. It
is the starting point for the mission of the disciples to "the ends of
the earth," the place where the apostles were gathered and the
doctrinal focal point in the early days of the community (Acts 15:2,6).
For Luke, "the ends of the earth" means Rome.
* 1:9-14 Scholars still argue over whether Luke derived the story of
the ascension from previous tradition and if so how much of it came
from that tradition. Luke includes direct echoes of Elijah's ascension
as told in 2 Kings 2:9-13 and Sirach 48:9,12.
The witness theme is important here. Luke refers to witness's vision
five times in verses 9-11. This is an argument for the visibility and
historicity of Jesus' ascension. However, the inclusion of interpreting
angels signals that this is not simply an event fully within history
and therefore it is not completely comprehensible on strictly human
There is a strong similarity with the last of Daniel's night visions
from Daniel 7:13-14. In fact, Daniel's description reads almost as if
it were a description of Jesus' arrival in heaven after leaving earth
in the ascension.
Ephesians 1: 17-23
17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give
you a spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. 18
May the eyes of (your) hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is
the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his
inheritance among the holy ones, 19 and what is the surpassing
greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise
of his great might, 20 which he worked in Christ, raising him from the
dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, 21 far above
every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that
is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he
put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to
the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all
things in every way.
NOTES on Second Reading:
* 1:17 In Greco-Roman letters, the greeting was customarily followed by
a prayer. Paul's letters usually include this element (except Gal and
1-2 Tim) but express it in Christian thanksgiving formulas and most
often they also state the principal theme of the letter. In Ephesians
the prayer is preceded by a lengthier blessing than usual.
* 1:20-23 God revealed His might in the resurrection and ascension of
Christ and in His exaltation over all angelic forces. Paul uses early
Christian creedal statements which formulated the "Christ-event" in
terms of Psalm 110:1 and 8:7 in order to impress upon the readers the
glorious position to which they have been called in Christ.
* 1:23 Only in Ephesians and Colossians is Christ called the head of
the body, in contrast to the view in 1 Cor 12 and Romans 12:4-8 where
Christ is equated with the entire body or community. In this verse some
take the one who fills as God, others as Christ (see Eph 4:10). If in
Christ "dwells the fullness of the deity bodily" (Col 2:9), then, as
God "fills" Christ, Christ in turn fills the church and the believer
(Eph 3:19; 5:18). But the difficult phrases here may also allow the
church to be viewed as the "complement" of Christ who is "being filled"
as God's plan for the universe is carried out through the church (See
Luke 24: 46-53
46And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Messiah
would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day 47 and that
repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name
to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of
these things. 49 And (behold) I am sending the promise of my Father 12
upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on
50Then he led them (out) as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and
blessed them. 51 As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken
up to heaven. 52 They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem
with great joy, 53 and they were continually in the temple praising God.
NOTES on Gospel:
* 24:46 Although the idea is hinted at in Mark 8:31-33, Luke is the
only gospel writer to speak explicitly of a suffering Messiah (Luke
24:46; Acts 3:18; 17:3; 26:23). The idea of a suffering Messiah is not
found in the Old Testament or in other Jewish literature before the New
Testament. The suffering servant poems of Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1-4;
49:1-6; 50:4-9a; 52:13-53:12) come to mind but the "servant" is never
identified as Messiah.
* 24:47 Jesus is the Messiah for all the world and therefore must be
proclaimed in all the world. Thus Luke's theme of universal salvation
will go out to all the world.
* 24:49 The promise of my Father is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
* 24:50 Luke uses the Greek verb, "exagein" for "led out". This word
has connections with the Septuagint (Greek) version of the Book of
Exodus where it is used to describe God's leading the people out of
Egyptian slavery. Jesus is about to complete His exodus (see 9:31) to
This is the only time in Luke's Gospel where Luke says that Jesus
blessed people. There also seems to be a deliberate allusion to Sirach
* 24:50 Luke ends his story about the time of Jesus with the report of
the ascension. In Acts He begins the story of the time of the church
with a retelling of the story of the ascension. In the gospel, Luke
recounts the ascension of Jesus on Easter Sunday night, thereby closely
associating it with the resurrection. In Acts 1:3,9-11; 13:31 he
historicizes the ascension by speaking of a forty-day period between
the resurrection and the ascension. The Western text omits some phrases
in Luke 24:51,52 perhaps to avoid any chronological conflict with Acts
1 about the time of the ascension.
* 24:52 This is the only time that Luke says the disciples worshiped
Jesus. It is the high point in that they recognize Him now at the end
of the story.
* 24:53 The Gospel of Luke ends where it began (Luke 1:9), in the
Jerusalem temple which for Luke was a bond of continuity between old
- St. Raymond Parish, Dublin, CA