Homily for the Ascension of Christ

In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up,…”

This is the author of the Acts of the Apostles, St. Luke, telling his friend about the gospel he just wrote. In the Acts of the Apostles, our first reading, we read the very first words written to that friend.

First, we read the very beginning words of one book, The Acts, and then, later, the very ending words of his gospel, the Gospel of Luke. The words tell us the same thing: Jesus told his apostles to go to Jerusalem and wait for the power of the Holy Spirit; to prepare themselves by prayer and action on how the Holy Spirit can be used in their lives to go forth and proclaim the gospel, and go forth to wash the feet of others.

In Acts, this takes place on the fortieth day as he is taken from their sight. In the Gospel of Luke, at the very end, the disciples and Apostles are in the upper room on Easter Sunday. Perhaps full of fear or confusion as to what they are to do.

To be taken up to heaven, after raising his hands over them and blessing them, must have been an incredible sight, one we can’t even imagine, let alone figure out how it happened.

Instead of focusing on what exactly happened, how it happened, where it happened and who was involved, today might be the day we ask “why” it happened. We know in part that Jesus said he must be taken up so that he could send the Holy Spirit, but I think there has to be more. Our Church tells us how important the Holy Spirit will be in the life of the newborn Church. How the Holy Spirit will give to all who receive it the strength and holiness to brave all things and allow them the courage to actually leave “the upper room,” leave the hilltop, and to stop standing there and looking up at the sky.

We know that he left the glory of heaven to become one of us. What does Jesus do when he gets back to heaven, at the side of God, in the love of the Spirit?

Some friends and I were talking. “We tell stories about Jesus all the time. What kind of stories does he tell about us?” So, “Why did he leave?”

And we imagined that he wanted to leave to go back to the Father. To go back to his home in heaven. Thirty-plus years on earth is a long time to be away from home. But, imagine the stories he had to tell! “Look, Father…” Sitting in the lap of God, breaking out the scrapbook of his life on earth, remembering all the wonderful things that happened. Sharing and showing family what one can do when God is so much a part of your life that you know HE knows and understands who you are.

Look, Father…” the beautiful woman you gave me as mother; the kind and caring man who raised me; my first splinter when I stared to work in the woodshop. “Look, Papa…” how scared I was when the evil one found me alone in the desert, but how confounded, when I remembered you would protect me if I were to put you first.

Look Daddy…” these are all the friends I made. Folks just like me. Not so high and mighty that we would miss out on all the great adventures, but not so poor either, because we knew we had to do something to help others.

And who knew! Miracles! Maybe I over did it on some, but there were so many things to do! I just couldn’t help myself!

Abba, Father…” This was the hard part. The arguing, the distrust, and the way I sometimes told people to go away. That’s the human part. The divine part always helped me to do better the next time.

And this could have been the worst part. I had to figure out why I had to be on the cross. But without that I couldn’t come home. Without the cross, the end, the lowest of lows, I would not have been able to look up and see the sky. To tell others “I get to go home.” And you, my friends, will follow.

The old scrapbook on the shelf, it was time to start a new one. Tell others the story, take pictures, keep them in your heart, and remember how your life changed when Jesus came to meet us and when you came to meet Jesus for the very first time.