Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11

Psalms 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9

Ephesians 1:17-23

Matthew 28:16-20

Goodbyes are never easy, perhaps especially when surrounded by the high drama of a direct ascension into heaven.  Jesus’ closest disciples [apostles] have been with Him three years, going from town to town, listening to His words, closely watching all of His actions [miracles/healings].  They were frequently followed by large crowds, the gospels tell us, but not all of those people would accept Him as the Messiah.  Some, indeed, would reject Him, or worse, ignore Him; others [Pharisees, Scribes, priests], would engage Jesus in testy conversations, designed to get Him to say something controversial [against the Law of Moses].  There were some very down [crucifixion], and embarrassing moments [denials, betrayals, running to a locked upper room], but as Jesus promised, He came back from the dead, which they never completely understood, making good on His promise to never “leave them alone.”  The last forty days [according to Luke] were incredibly special, for something about Jesus was different, and the authority with which He taught seemed more pronounced.  They didn’t keep some of the disciples from asking stupid questions [“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”], and they didn’t prevent many of us from still “doubting” [word used more like “confused”].  They were definitely forty halcyon days, and Jesus’ disciples could not have felt any closer to Him.

But now it was clearly time to say goodbye.  Jesus’ time in this world was physicallycoming to an end, and if we persevered in our faith in Him, in a few days we would be “baptized with the Holy Spirit,” and we would be given the “power” to become His “witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judaea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”  Wow!  Just didn’t see that coming.

Jesus had to go, He had to return to His Father and take His rightful seat at God’s right hand.  He left the world in the clumsy hands of His not always reliable disciples, but with the Holy Spirit invigorating them and leading them to do what Jesus had asked them to do – nothing less than what Jesus did during His time on earth, preach the good news “to the ends of the earth.”  They knew it would take some effort, for the forces of evil that opposed the Lord Jesus would oppose them as well, but somehow they felt up to the task.  The angels were right – stop staring at the sky as if Jesus were going to come right back.  It was time for the disciples to do what they were chosen for – to build up a kingdom of justice, peace, compassion and love, and they would do it just like Jesus did – through their words and by how they lived their lives.  People did follow, from “all the ends of the earth,” both Gentiles and Jews, and as the Acts of the Apostles says so often, “many were added to their numbers.”

While it might appear that the kingdom initiated by Jesus could be diminishing, we should have great confidence that the kingdom continues to spread.  Although we are separated  from Jesus by thousands of years, what is said in the inspired Word of God, the Scriptures, is said to us: “all power in heaven and on earth has been given to” Jesus, and so we are called “to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.  And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age[Matt. 28:20].”

If the kingdom of Jesus seems to be diminishing, then our work is cut out for us.  We need to, echoing the song, “put a little more love in our hearts, for the world will be a better place” to the extent that we live out our lives in the ways Jesus taught.

As we commemorate  these solemnities [Ascension, Pentecost] our faith should be strengthened, and “may the eyes of our hearts be enlightened, that we may know what is the hope that belongs to Jesus call [we have all been called], what are the riches of glory in His inheritance [we have all inherited what He won for us on the cross], and what is the surpassing greatness of His power for us who believe [Ephesians].”  We should never feel diminished or discouraged, for the power of Christ living within us can truly change the world for the better.

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