Reflection for the Feast of the Ascension

by Sister Jeanne d’Arc Kernion, OSB

May 8, 2024   

 

 Many of the paintings of the Ascension depict Jesus ascending and the apostles looking on in prayerful positions.  Their eyes fixed on him and the two angels in the background.

 

Tomorrow we again celebrate the feast of the Ascension of Christ into heaven and for such an important feast, it seems very little of the actual occurrence is described, even in today’s gospel, or in those of Matthew and Luke.  In the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, however, we get a clearer picture.  We learn that it has been 40 days since Jesus’ resurrection, and about some of His many instructions to them during that time.  This description is unlike what many of the paintings depict.

 

Now, Jesus has come and gone to them many times during those 40 days.  At this meeting, however, they don’t seem too aware that this is their final meeting and they still want to know if He is going to restore the Kingdom to Israel.  His final answer to them is the promise that they will receive the power of the Holy Spirit and they will be witnesses to Him to the ends of the earth.  He ascends and they just stand there looking until the two angels appear and send them on their way.  One wonders if they are really aware that this is his final departure, unlike the end of his many other visits during the 40 days.

 

What can we take from this feast?  It can remind us that we are often very much like the apostles.  We know and believe that Jesus never leaves us.  No matter our difficulties or our problems, he is with us and loves us.  Yet we often look around us for answers to relieve our pain, forgetting that we have the Holy Spirit with us.   Are or we like the apostles at the moment of the Ascension, still with questions, still needing Jesus’ to remind us of all he promised during his time with them, and it wasn’t to restore the Kingdom to Israel, so to speak.  Like them, we often want to restore our little kingdoms, forgetting to rely on the spirit God has given us to be and do such much more.

 

It is especially important, I think, that the feast of Pentecost follows soon after this one. Like it did the apostles, who most probably were struggling with the fact that they wouldn’t see Jesus again, this feast will assure us that, as we pray every day at the noon meal, “Jesus has gone before us, yet he is with us for all time.”

Let’s pray today, then, that we are able to really live in this comforting knowledge, that Christ has never left us and never will.  

 

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