The Ascension of the Lord
First reading: Acts 1:1-11
Responsorial Psalm: 47: 2-3, 6-9
Second reading: Eph 1:17-23 or Heb 9:24-38; 10:19-23
Gospel: Jn 24:46-53
By Jem Sullivan | Catholic News Service
Making, keeping, or breaking promises are part of daily human interactions. We promise to be on time for meetings and we promise children rewards for good behavior. We promise to spend time with family and friends, and we make promises in the form of engagements, vows, and other small and big life commitments.
On this Ascension Sunday as Jesus ascends to his heavenly father his final words are filled with divine promises to his disciples and to us.
So, as we allow God’s word to dwell in us, we reflect on the promises of God made real in the promises of Jesus at the sacred moment of his ascension to heaven. For in his divine promises, we find hope and strength for the daily journey of faith.
In the opening verses of the Acts of the Apostles, we are told that the risen Jesus instructed his disciples not to leave Jerusalem but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”
Why does Jesus promise the gift of the Holy Spirit at his ascension? Because his disciples, the apostles and the church would not have the courage or wisdom to proclaim boldly the life-giving message of Jesus without the strength of the Holy Spirit.
We know this from the words of Jesus himself, who says, “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.”
The Gospel also directs our gaze to the promise of Jesus to remain with his disciples, and us, until the end of time. This promise was especially comforting to the disciples as they experienced, first hand, Jesus leaving their company in his ascension to heaven.
At this pivotal moment, Jesus explains the meaning of his suffering, death on the cross and resurrection on the third day. He willingly endured his paschal mystery so that repentance and forgiveness of sins could be preached to all in his holy name.
The ascension of Jesus is a moment of hope and mission for the church. For Jesus assures his disciples that he will remain with them in the gift and mystery of the Eucharist. And he sends the disciples on mission to be loving witnesses of all that they had seen and heard in the events of his passion, death and resurrection.
So, as he returns to his heavenly Father, Jesus says, “And behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
God’s promises carry with them the certainty of divine power and merciful love. While our human promises may fail from time to time, we can trust fully in the promises of God. Because God is love. And God’s promise of divine love never fails.
If you have experienced broken promises, let this Ascension Sunday be a time of renewed hope in the promises of God that never fail. In the sure hope of the promises of Jesus at his ascension, we pray with joyful faith, “speak to me, Lord.”
What does the promise of Jesus at his ascension mean to you personally?
Sullivan is a professor at The Catholic University of America.