Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle A

The Ascension of the Lord

“And know that I am with you always

In today’s reading from Acts of the Apostles, Luke speaks of Jesus being ‘lifted up … and a cloud took him from their sight’. It conjures up a picture of Jesus going up beyond the clouds, through the atmosphere until he reaches heaven. But Luke is not telling us about a journey through space. He is simply telling us that Jesus, died and risen, is with the Father. The ‘cloud’ is a regular biblical symbol of the presence of God.

In today’s second reading St. Paul speaks of “the strength of his (the Father’s) power at work in Christ, when he used it to raise him from the dead and to make him sit at his right hand”. The metaphor of ‘sitting at the right hand of God’ is different from ‘being taken up in the cloud’, but the message is the same. The resurrection says that Jesus is alive; the ascension says that he is exalted, in glory – utterly, completely, totally one with God.

Before he withdrew from their sight Jesus promised his followers “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes to you”. It is the identical power by which Jesus was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven, the power of God revealed in the action of the Holy Spirit. Jesus, died and risen and now with the Father, endows us with the gift of that power – the gift of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. That is what he meant when he said “know that I am with you always”.

No need, then, to stand staring into the sky looking for Christ; he is not in some distant location ‘up there’ or ‘out there’. He is right within us.