Cycle (B) The Ascension of the Lord

 Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; Mk 16:15-20

There is an interesting Zen story.

Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, "Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?" "Because," the monk replied, "to save it is my nature."

It is in the nature of Jesus to offer himself for the salvation of humanity.

The scripture tells us that Jesus Christ was in the purpose of God before even the world was made. The coming of Jesus was not God's last ditch effort to exert His will over a world of sinners. It was planned before there ever was a man upon the earth. Jesus said it himself. "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." (John 8:56). And St. Peter asserted that, “He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you" (1Peter 1:20)

God promised the coming of His anointed One or Messiah to the fathers of Israel, but the realization of that promise had to wait thousands of years. The Apostle Paul said, "And we declare to you glad tidings; that promise which was made to the fathers. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus." (Acts 13:32)

For forty days after His Resurrection, Jesus remained on earth. Filled with the glory and honour of His Divinity, He appeared to His Disciples at various times and places. By eating and drinking with His followers and conversing with them about the Kingdom of God, Jesus assured them that He was truly alive in His risen and glorified Body.

The time span of forty days is used symbolically in the Holy Scriptures and by the Church to indicate that an appropriate amount of time has passed for "completeness". The rains of the great flood lasted for forty days. Christ prayed in the wilderness for forty days. We fast for forty days to prepare before the feasts of the Nativity and the Resurrection.

Ascension falls on the fortieth day after the Resurrection. On this day, Jesus appeared to His Disciples and gave them His last commandment - to preach the Kingdom of God and the repentance and forgiveness of sins in His name to all nations, beginning with Jerusalem. Then He led them out of Jerusalem toward Bethany to the Mount of Olives. As His Disciples were looking on, He was lifted up - or "ascended" - and a cloud took Him out of sight.

In the beginning men lived in perfect harmony with God in paradise. But once sin entered into his life he was turned out and ever since his concern was to get back to that paradise.

This deep desire gave rise to a number of myths. The Greeks coined many myths where gods took men to the Mount Olympus, which was the abode of Gods. Ascension here, at its best, means gaining godlike qualities or powers.

But the ascension of Jesus has great significance. It signalled the end of His earthly ministry. Jesus completed His earthly mission of bringing salvation to all. Having completed His mission in this world as the Saviour, He returned to the Father in heaven Who sent Him into the world. In ascending to the Father, He raises earth and the whole creation to heaven with Him!

Secondly the Ascension of Jesus marked the return of his heavenly glory. Jesus glory was revealed only once during his life time that is, at the time of transfiguration. Then Peter cried out, "Lord it is good to be here." Once again the same glory is revealed at the time of ascension.

The Ascension of Jesus indicates the beginning of the new work. He had entrusted his apostles with a double task. To announce to all nations the good news that he had preached, and to bear witness with their own lives to what they preached. The early Christians did what Jesus had demanded. St Stephen did not hesitate to give up his life for his faith. Seeing his conviction the officials at his execution accepted his faith. At the time of Emperor Nero and Diocletian thousands laid down their lives to bear witness to their faith.

Bearing witness does not mean that we should shed blood. St Francis of Assisi, Little Flower, St Alphonsa, Mother Theresa and thousands of holy men and women bore witness to the message of Jesus by submitting themselves to the will of God.