Ascension 2013 – May 12, 2013, Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
May 12, 2013
Rev. Emmett H. Carroll, S.J.
Elijah, the great prophet of the Old Testament, was speaking with Elisha, the prophet who would succeed to Elijah’s way of living. Arriving at the Jordan River, Elijah took off his mantle, rolled it up, and with a full swing struck the river water; it divided. Both crossed over on dry ground.
When they had crossed over, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask for whatever I may do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha answered, “May I receive a double portion of your spirit.” “You have asked something that is not easy,” he replied. “Still, if you see me taken up from you, your wish will be granted; otherwise not.” As they walked on conversing, a flaming chariot and flaming horses came between them, and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind. (2 Kings 2:9-11)
Christ’s ascension into heaven recalls this occurrence at the end of Elijah’s life. The Acts of the Apostles describes a scene at the end of Our Lord’s days among his disciples.
When [Jesus] had said this, as [the Apostles] were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. 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 heaven.” (Acts or Apostles 1`:9-11)
Luke writes much less dramatically, less poetically, than the author of the Book of Kings The resurrection account mingles with the Ascension. Through forty days, Jesus has appeared to the Apostles at various spots.
Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene on the day of resurrection. Again, Jesus appears to two disciples as they walk to the village of Emmaus. Again, Christ appears to the Apostles when they have locked themselves into the room in Jerusalem; once Thomas is absent, and once Thomas is present. Later, Jesus cooks breakfast for the Apostles on the shore of Lake Galilee, and here he three times asks if Peter loves him. And at one point Jesus in His transformed body appears to 500 people when they have gathered together. Christ’s Ascension thus recalls Christ’s many appearances to the living, to the witnesses.
After summarily alluding to these many witnesses, St. Luke emphasizes the visual aspect of this ascension. While the apostles were looking on, Jesus was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. They were looking intently at the sky as he was going, Looking, and sight, and looking intently—the apostles find surprise in the event that transpires before their eyes. In the gospel narrative St. John, it seems, cannot sufficiently emphasize the sight before his eyes.
What was from the beginning,
What we have heard,
What we have seen with our eyes,
What we have looked upon
And touched with our hands
Concerns the Word of life—
For the life was made visible…. (1 John 1:1-2).
True, the leaders of the people, the Sanhedrin, called for Jesus’ crucifixion, and these so shouted that Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor, gave in to their excited demands to put Jesus to a shameful death, to the ugliest brutality that the human mind could conceive. However, at the Ascension, God raises Jesus into glory. In changing water into wine, in curing the blind man, in ending the woman hemorrhaging for years, in bringing Lazarus back to life—in all of these miracles Jesus had claimed divinity, and now Jesus outwardly and dramatically, by a divine power, ascends from earth. God authenticates all of His son’s teaching and miracles by lifting Him at an instant of lasting exaltation, while the Apostles look on.
An excitement runs through these onlookers.
While they were looking intently at the sky as [Jesus] was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. 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 heaven.”
Then the Apostles came back to Jerusalem, conscious of receiving a measure of Christ’s spirit, and they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alpheus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James; they gave themselves to prayer together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers (Acts 1:13-14).
The Ascension of Jesus brings a lasting impetus, for disciples and the Apostles have seen the Lord alive, resurrected, approved by God, moving into a lasting and living union with the Father. A fresh ardor surges through these people as they hear their Lord:
“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.”
Seeing and hearing and touching—to this vivid living with Christ the Apostles should tell all other people. The Apostles have wonderfully lived with Jesus, and now He commissions them to spread the word that they themselves have experienced.
You will receive a bone-marrow empowerment from the Holy Spirit; it will last and last and last until you have given first hand evidence of me to everyone in Jerusalem, and throughout the province of Judea, and to the Samaritans, and to the ends of the earth where you will encounter both Jews and Gentiles. Tell all people what you have experienced. Amen!!