Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord—A
If one were looking for a short, simple passage that synthesizes all of Scripture, summarizes Jesus’ purpose for coming among us, and declares the mission of the Church, today’s Gospel would be an excellent choice.
All three readings speak of the establishment of the Kingdom of God in a manner that surpasses all human expectations. The Gospel, in particular, portrays Jesus completely reclaiming a fallen world wounded by sin, and commissioning his weak, doubtful, and confused disciples to proclaim this message of hope to all peoples.
Can you imagine? These eleven, as Matthew points out (Judas having betrayed Jesus before his death), are unlearned men still stunned by Jesus’ resurrection. They doubted, Matthew says. And they did more than that. These same men, while trying to follow Jesus, nonetheless were tripped up by human ambition, jealousy, selfishness, pride, misunderstanding, fear, and even denial of Christ. The first disciples were just as broken as we are!
Yet Jesus entrusts the Church to them—to us. We are to evangelize, celebrate the sacraments, teach one another, and live the Gospel—but not all alone. “I am with you always, until the end of the age,” Jesus says.
This powerful promise echoes throughout Scripture. It’s there in Matthew’s infancy narrative, recalling the words of the prophet Isaiah: “They shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us’” (cf. Mt 1:23; Is 7:14). And it is there in 2Chronicles 36:23, the very last words of the Hebrew Bible, when the earthly King Cyrus claims his dominion under God and links it to the temple in Jerusalem, urging the people, “Go up, and may God be with [you].”
All this is tied together and fulfilled when Christ the True King ascends into heaven with the Earth at his feet, and then sends the Holy Spirit to be with his first disciples—and us in the building up of God’s heavenly Kingdom.
To the ends of the Earth, and to the end of the age. Amen.