Our Scripture passage for this week is found in the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 28
Dear friends in Christ,
The ascension of Jesus astonishes. Though it happens at a particular place, near Bethany, it exceeds ordinary perception. Jesus blesses the disciples and is ‘carried up into heaven’ in but four Greek words. Indeed, the scriptures leave room for our imagination. In the brief summary in the Gospels about the appearance of the risen Christ to his disciples and his ascension, the writers provide clear and empowering narratives for those of us who step into this story looking back through the life of the Church, which began with Jesus’ blessing on those surrounding him as he ascended to join God. At the close of his ministry on earth, Jesus is focused on helping believers understand his life and ministry, death and resurrection, and the scope of God’s saving love. He rehearses the key points of the witness we are called and empowered to make, and finally, he blesses us.
We may try to puzzle about what ‘really happened’ when Jesus was taken up into heaven. Where did he really go? What did the disciples actually witness? A more rewarding approach is to explore how the elements of this story affect us today. What are the realities of our own lives, and of our faith, that this story touches or expands for us? What are its challenges, its assurances, its revelations to us, here and now? Our work is not easy, but Jesus provides us his comfort and peace to carry forward. The God to whom we bear witness intends to offer salvation to all the nations, and that is no easier to accept now than it was then.
The Spirit that clothes us at Pentecost is necessary for the witness to which we are called. It’s important to understand that as Jesus ascends so that this work of the Church may begin, he blesses us. Those with Jesus worship him and return to Jerusalem, not to weep, but to live with great joy and confidence in anticipation of the promise of power for their ministry of witness. And this is what Jesus offers us too. Are you ready to receive it?
Blessings, Fr Jonathan