Homily for the Ascension of the Lord

One of the most interesting things about today’s gospel in Matthew is that there are only two times Jesus appears to the disciples after his death. First, to the women at the tomb, and then to the disciples in Galilee. Even more interesting is that our reading from Mathew indicates that this encounter with the women and the eleven all takes place on the same day as the Resurrection.
Meaning there was no time between Jesus’ Resurrection and Ascension to try and fathom what was going on. And this is why, in Mt, they doubted.

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. “…and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the age.”

In the gospel of Luke, the story of Emmaus indicates that the Resurrection and the Ascension take place on the same day. Jesus appears more than once during that short time, after Emmaus he is seen in the upper room, he sends the disciples to Bethany, blesses them and departs from them. He says to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third
day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations

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, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.

Yet Luke also writes in the Acts of the Apostles, that the Lord ascended after 40 days. During those 40 days Jesus was present so many times doing so many things that when it came time for him to ascend the disciples are very sad to see him go.

The gospel of John is not clear if the Ascension takes place on the same day as the Resurrection. But a lot of others do. Mary goes to the tomb early in the morning, then tells the Apostles what she has seen. Peter and John race to the tomb and after that, simply leave. Then Jesus appears in the upper room on that same day and says “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending
you.”  And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” and Thomas is not there. Eight days later Jesus comes to the upper room again and says “Peace be with you” and Thomas is there.

John seems to indicate that the Feast of Pentecost was to take place soon (in about 10 days) which makes the Ascension happening 40 days after the Resurrection. “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you… Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Finally in Mark, he indicates that the Ascension took place on the same day as the Resurrection. On the first day of the week the women came to the tomb with spices and ask “who will roll the stone away for us.” Then, on that same day, Jesus appears to two who were walking along the road. The two see him and go to the eleven, and they all go to Galilee, where Jesus gives them the Great
Commission: Jesus says to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark writes: “After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God.

At the end of each gospel we have appearances of the Risen Lord. And the Great Commissioning. Sometimes the Great Commissioning happens on the same day as the Resurrection, sometimes 40 days later. The day is not as important as the Commissioning.

“He commissions them so that he is sure his mission continues through them. The disciples do not replace Jesus or take over his mission. Seated at the right hand of the Father, Jesus now continues his mission through his disciples in the power of the Holy Spirit” ( see Steve Addison, Movements.net. blog/2020/10/21/the-great-commission-in-john)

“Jesus was sent into the world by the Father to do his will, to speak his words, to perform his works and win salvation for all who believe. At the heart of Jesus’ mission was his obedience and dependence on the Father, who set him apart and poured out the Holy Spirit upon him.

Through Jesus, his disciples have become the children of God, the Spirit has been promised to them, they have been made holy by God’s word as they grow in obedience and dependence on their Lord”  (see Steve Addison, Movements.net)

So there you have it. Easter is almost over as Jesus ascends to the Father and leaves it all up to us. The light of the Resurrection remains with us to this day. After Pentecost and when Easter is over, he is not gone nor is the Light taken away.

It is a sign to us that the light needs to come from another source. The Commission is not just an Easter or Ascension thing. And of course, … that’s where we come in… for if we accept the Great Commission, our faith tells us that we no longer need to see the risen Lord face to face. We can still go on doing the work of the Church, as we hear him say: “…and lo, I am with you always, even
unto the end of the age.”