29TH MAY 2022
Today is the Feast of the Ascension of our Lord. This is the day on which He gave the mission mandate of preaching His Good News to the entire world. on which He ascended to the Heavens, as a culmination of the Glory of the Resurrection. In our proclamation of the Apostles' Creed, we affirm, “... He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty!"
On this Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord Jesus tells the disciples, “But wait in the city of Jerusalem until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk24:49b). The purpose of their waiting is to be “clothed with power from on high,” a reference to the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is leaving the disciples with a great responsibility, and they are not ready yet to tackle it. Earlier, Jesus sent out the disciples with “power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases” and told them to “preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick” (Lk 9:1-2). Now they are to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations (Lk 24:47). Only after they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit will they be able to do that effectively.
As disciples of Jesus, we face some serious and difficult commands. Jesus commands us to speak out against injustice, even though it might make us unpopular. He commands us to lay down our life for our neighbor. He commands us to forgive our enemies.
When we hear these commands our first response is: “I can’t do that. I don’t have the courage, the generosity, or the goodness to follow that command.” It is then that we must remember that Jesus fully intends to fund all of his mandates. This is why we, like the disciples, must wait for the power of the Spirit that will allow us to accomplish what Jesus asks of us.
Waiting, then, is essential to discipleship. Many times, we struggle with the expectations of the gospel because we have been hurt deeply or rejected by someone. our lives have been turned upside-down, because someone has offended us. We share with each other and say: “I know that Jesus commands me to forgive my enemy, but I can’t do it. When I think of this person, all I have is anger and a desire to get even.” In those circumstances, I encourage people to wait, reminding them that the ability to forgive requires God’s help. If Jesus commands us to forgive our enemy, he must provide the means by which we are to do it. Forgiving an enemy runs contrary to our human inclinations, and so we are dependent on power from another source. We must wait for power from on high, in order to follow Jesus’ directive.
It is wort noting that the disciples obediently returned to the same Upper Room in Jerusalem where they held the Last Supper. In obedience to Jesus’s command, it was there that the Apostles, the men and women disciples, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus’s kinsmen all remained in prayer for nine days as the united 120 members of the first Christian community (Acts 1:13-15). Under the Old Covenant traditions, 120 was the minimum number required for forming a religious community.
They continued in prayer, waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Jewish Feast of Weeks/Pentecost on the tenth day after Jesus’s Ascension and fifty days from His Resurrection (Acts chapter 2). For this reason, a “novena,” a prayer with a single petition lasts for nine days. Today we are on the third day of the Holy Spirit Novena. May we continue to wait as we pray for the enlightenment and power of the Holy Spirit to be his witnesses all over the world. Happy Feast of the Ascension!