May 21, 2023 — The Ascension of the Lord
ACTS 1: 1-11; PS 47:2-3, 6-9; EPH 1:17-23; MT 28:16-20
Today, we celebrate the great feast of the Ascension of our Lord, that glorious moment when Jesus, 40 days after His resurrection, was lifted up — quite literally— into heaven, as the apostles watched in stunned amazement. It is recounted in both our first reading, from Acts, as well as the Gospel passage, from Matthew. It must have been an extraordinary thing to witness.
But the first reading tells us that the apostles were not permitted to simply bask in the moment for very long. “While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?’” In other words, “Don’t just stand there, do something!”
This verse is a call to each one of us Christian stewards this very day. We have been given every grace and blessing through the Mass and all of the sacraments, through the Word of God, the rich teachings of our faith, and even our talents and our material possessions — so many gifts and blessings that we should live in a kind of stunned amazement ourselves.
And like those first apostles, we are not meant to just stand here but to do something with these gifts — in love and gratitude to the One Who gave them to us. We are called, just as much as the first apostles “to be [His] witnesses… to the ends of the earth,” not with our own power, but through the power of the Holy Spirit in us.
Our second reading, from the Letter to the Ephesians, reminds us of the might and power of God whose witnesses we are. In fact, St. Paul describes “the surpassing greatness of His power.” He reminds us that the Father raised Christ from the dead and has placed Him “far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion… not only in this age but also in the one to come.” This is the mighty God we serve, the One Who has blessed us with every good thing, and the One Who now gives us the privilege of serving as His witnesses to the ends of the earth.
This God knows us, His children, so well. He knows that we are prone to fear and weakness just as the first apostles were. In the Gospel passage, we read that they went to the mountain as the Lord instructed, and they saw Him there just as He promised. “When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.”
The Lord was not angered by their doubt. Instead, He encouraged them with a reminder that “all power in heaven and on earth” had been given to Him. With that, He sent them on their way. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,” He told them and He tells us today. And because He is so loving, He gives us one more powerful, comforting reminder — “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
On this feast of the Ascension, let us take a moment to “look up at the heavens” and ponder all the graces and blessings our loving God has given us. Then, let’s do something! Let’s put all those gifts to work as we serve as grateful witnesses to this amazing God.