Reflection: 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)

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

Bible study/sharing every Saturday (2:00-4:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church, 5 Leicester Place WC2H 7BX (near See Woo Chinese Supermarket, Leicester Square tube station)

Talk and discussion meeting First Monday of every month (4:00-6:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church

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[1st Reading – Acts 1:1-11; Ps.46; 2nd Reading – Eph.1:17-23; Gospel – Mt.28:16-20]

KNOW THAT I AM WITH YOU ALWAYS

Today the Church is presenting us with the last moments of Jesus’ earthly presence. After his resurrection, Jesus sent a message to the Apostles that he wanted to meet them in Galilee. This is where today’s gospel begins. We are told that the eleven “set out for Galilee to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them”. There are eleven disciples and not twelve. Judas, one of the twelve, decided to separate himself from them when he betrayed Jesus. We know that he committed suicide.

At the appointed place and time, Jesus kept his promise and met the rest of the Disciples. As in times of old, God kept his promise(s) to the rest of the sons of Israel, so now Jesus is keeping his promise to the rest of the Apostles, the eleven. When Jesus called the twelve to be Apostles and therefore to be with him during his earthly life, he did not choose perfect people. And even after being with him, they still did not become perfect. Yet, these are those on whom the Church was to be built. They are weak human beings who were ready to become strong through the power of Jesus. Unfortunately, Judas decided otherwise and he did not let Jesus help him and strengthen to continue to follow Jesus. Whoever we are, we need the strength from God to proceed in our relationship with him!

The meeting took place on “the mountain” where Jesus arranged to meet them. The mountain has always been a symbol of the ‘presence of God’. In the Old Testament, it was on the mountain that someone had the vision or the experience of God. Whatever it was, it always took place on a mountain. Jesus himself used to go to the mountains to pray and be in the presence of the Father. And it is on a mountain that the risen Christ arranged to meet his chosen ones. Jesus is not meeting them as the earthly Jesus that they knew… He is meeting them as the risen Lord and God. Not as “a” god, because this would make him a god amongst others, but as “the” God. Jesus, together with the Father and with the Holy Spirit, is one God. There is nothing to understand here because this is a mystery of faith. Yet, it is Jesus himself who spoke about him and the Father being one. And it is also Jesus who spoke about the Holy Spirit being the one sent by the Father and the one who will be giving from what belongs to Jesus. If the Holy Spirit was (and is) not one with Jesus, he could not do so…

Returning to our line of thought – Jesus, as God, is meeting the eleven on the mountain. It seems that the Apostles recognise his “divinity” because we are told that “when they saw him they fell down before him”. This is an attitude of those putting themselves at the service of someone else, someone who is on a higher position. It is also the attitude and the gesture of someone who is putting himself in the presence of God. Yes they finally recognised Jesus as God… even though some hesitated.

Although the Apostles have been with Jesus throughout his public life (if not before the start of it), some of them still have problems seeing in him the Son of God. We are told that they hesitated. Unlike Judas, who decided (through killing himself and therefore lost hope) that he did not want anything anymore to do with Jesus, some of the other eleven hesitated… yet they still stayed there to listen to what Jesus, who is now presenting himself in his divinity, had to say. This divinity is given to him by the one who sent him, the one who has “All authority in heaven and on earth”, God the Father. Jesus, who is divine, does the same thing as the Father did with him. As the Father sent Jesus, so now Jesus, because of his divinity, is sending his weak yet strengthened chosen ones. He is sending them to make other disciples from all the nations. They are to go in all nations and make disciples for Christ. All this in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In other words, they will be acting in the name of God. They too are therefore given authority, in the name of the whole Trinity. It is as if God himself (Father, Son and Spirit) is doing the action, which, in truth, is what will happen. God himself will work through them. They will do what Jesus did – teach the disciples to observe all the commands given to him. And if they are still hesitating, Jesus assures them that he will be with them always, till the end of time. It is therefore Jesus who will be acting in them. The strength of this phrase is in the double assurance of “always” and “till the end of time”. They mean the same thing, yet Jesus put them together to show them that whatever happens, he will be with them. They only have to believe and accept his command.

We too are invited to believe and accept his command. Are we honouring this authority and mission given to us?

“Lord, you asked your disciples to meet you on the mountain where you proved to be God. Give us the gift of faith and courage to be able to follow in their footsteps and be the disciples that you desire us to be. 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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