Reflection: The Ascension of the Lord

Chinese Mass:Every Sunday 2:15 p.m

Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)

Mass is conducted in a mix of Cantonese and Mandarin

After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering

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[1st Reading – Acts 1:1-11; Ps.46; 2nd Reading – Eph.1:17-23; Gospel – Lk.24:46-53]

Today’s gospel writer, Luke, is presenting us with Jesus’ last words to his disciples before he was ‘carried up to heaven’.  Jesus is speaking about his death and his resurrection, and reminds his disciples that his suffering, death and resurrection were already foretold in the scriptures.  At the same time he also reminds them that in the scriptures, it was foretold that in his name repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all nations.

Thus we understand that Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection have a redemptive meaning and that through his suffering and death, every sinner has the possibility to be saved.  Jesus’ death and resurrection did not take place because a ‘despotic’ Father wanted his Son to die on a Cross, but because he wanted to save us.  The sinner is saved not through his/her own merits, but through the merits of the one who suffered, died and returned back to life through the resurrection.

At the time, Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross seemed to be Jesus’ weakness.  Yet, it turned out to be his triumph because, unheard of before, Jesus overcame death itself.  God (Jesus himself is God) ‘on the third’ day intervened in his life.  In the same way, sin seems (and in fact is) to be the frailty of human weakness.  Yet, God can still intervene ‘on the third day’ in our life if we repent, and therefore give God the opportunity to do so: then he will forgive our sins…  God enters into the life of the sinner who returns back to him…

Jesus’ teaching does not finish here: he chose his disciples to be “witnesses to this” …witnesses to what?  Is it that of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection?  Is it about the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins?   Is it both of these together?

Jesus was well aware that he was surrounded by ‘weak disciples’ who needed help to be able to go out themselves and preach as he is asking of them.  Therefore, for them to be able to give evidence of their experience with him and be “witnesses to this”, Jesus says that he will send down to them what the Father has promised – the Holy Spirit – who will clothe the disciples with the power from on high.  Once they have the Holy Spirit (i.e. God) working in them they themselves can preach the forgiveness of sins, and through the power of the Holy Spirit they will be able to ‘forgive sins’ as well.

Thus Jesus’ “You are witnesses for this” to his disciples mean that on they are to give evidence of what they have seen and heard, but also they are to perform “the forgiveness of sins”.  Jesus suffered, died and returned back to life once and for all.  They will continue to perform what Jesus has started.  With this, Jesus left them to return back to the Father, while they were continually in the Temple praising God!

We too are invited to be witnesses.  Although we haven’t seen Christ suffer, die and return back to life, we have the experience of being forgiven from our sins.  Thus we can be witnesses of this love that gives us the strength that we need whenever we are weak due to our human frailty.

“Lord, you said to your disciples that they are to be witnesses of your extraordinary love.  You also gave them the opportunity of letting the Holy Spirit work through them.  Give the same opportunities to us and help us to be witnesses of your presence in our life.  Thank you Lord!”

Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.

(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo    http://www.stpatrickwaterloo.org.uk/ )

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