Daily Reflection
June 4th, 2000
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignatian Spirituality
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Ascension of the Lord
Acts 1:1-11
Psalms 47:2-3, 6-9
Ephesians 1:17-23
Mark 16:15-20

In some parts of North America, Ascension Thursday has been moved to today, which makes this Ascension Sunday, one week before Pentecost on which day we will celebrate the coming down of the Holy Spirit.  So you might pray and say that God has His ups and downs.  Today we recall and celebrate the going up to heaven of the physical, risen body of Jesus.  

In today’s First Reading, we hear the opening eleven verses of The Acts of the Apostles in which we listen to and then watch Jesus taken from the sensible experience of the Apostles.  Though they had abandoned Him a few weeks before, Jesus goes away without abandoning His fragile followers.  He turns their inquiry about His restoring power to Israel by telling them of a power they will have and will exercise in Jerusalem, Israel and to the ends of the earth.

The Second Reading is a mighty prayer of the early Church.  It too comprises the first verses of the Epistle to the Ephesians.  It is a praising of God’s power and authority.  As we listen, we will hear the prayer for us that the author heartily offers.  We are to receive the Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in the knowledge of God.  

The Gospel contains the last verses of Mark’s recounting the events of Christ’s life.  Jesus gives definite commands to His followers about spreading the Kingdom of God through preaching and baptizing.  He then gives some strange powers to the assembly.  They will be able to drink poison and pick up deadly snakes, but not be harmed.  They will be able to lay hands on the sick and they will be healed.  They will be able to drive out demons and speak in new languages.  These signs will accompany the true believer.  

After saying these things, Jesus departs and so do the Apostles to begin preaching, “while the Lord worked with them.”  So the Church begins at the end of Mark’s Gospel and the opening of The Acts of the Apostles.  

Is this and ending then, or a beginning?  Yes!  I wonder if it was easier for the Apostles to follow Jesus after His ascension, because they had seen Him before and after the Resurrection; or for us who never have seen Him, but are thereby more familiar with living with simple faith.  The Apostles may have found it harder to trust, perhaps always wishing for the “good old days.”  Much was asked of them as they began preaching, working signs and struggling to articulate the life-giving advantages of living Christ’s teachings.  Think of it, they were not even a handful, rather a thumbful of fragility in an out-of-the-way country which was dominated by a pagan military force.  In that context, listen to what Jesus tells them to do and then, then Jesus disappears leaving them with only a promise to work with them.

Is it easier for us who have never seen Jesus?  We have seen the acts of the Apostles through out the centuries.  We have experienced the community of saints.  We have experienced the power of the Lord working with us and through us.  We are accustomed to not having seen at all and that sort of blindness has freed us a bit to trust even more.  Though we haven’t seen Him in one form of His Body, we have seen Him in the Body of the believers who make up His Body the Church.

WE have difficult things about which to believe concerning Jesus; His birth, miracles, Resurrection and this Ascension.  The prayer of the Second Reading then is more applicable, “May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call….”.  The “eyes” of our hearts and not the eyes of our intellects are to be brightened so that we can not want to see Him as some confirming proof, but rather see Him alive and acting through our hearts and hands and voices.  Jesus did not abandon us to the power of our arrogant minds, but the the power of His Spirit which moves through and among us and raising us to be His Body  still remaining on earth. 

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