Saint Thomas of Canterbury, Bolton

Stay with us, Lord, on our journey

Cycle C

The Ascension of the Lord


 Acts 1.1-11; Luke 24.46-53

“… he withdrew from them …”

In these very simple words St. Luke, in his Gospel narrative, tells that Jesus, risen from the dead, is no longer present to us in a physical, visible manner. In his other book, the Acts of the Apostles, Luke gives a colourful picture of Jesus being lifted up above the clouds, taken from their sight. The message is the same. The Ascension of Jesus does not mean that he literally floated off into space before their eyes. The Paschal Mystery is one continuous unbroken reality that we celebrate over the weeks between Good Friday and Pentecost. Good Friday speaks of his death. Easter Sunday proclaims that he is alive. The Ascension explains that he is with his Father in glory. And Pentecost tells us that the fruit of all this is the sending of the Holy Spirit to dwell within us.

Through the gift of the Spirit Jesus promised that the apostles, and subsequently all who are baptised in the Spirit, would be “clothed with power from on high”. The work of Jesus must continue; in his name repentance for the forgiveness of sins must be preached; news of his death/resurrection, the message of salvation must be proclaimed. By the power of his Spirit they are to continue the work of Jesus. They can’t just stand around, staring off into the heavens. There is work to be done. They have to be ready to move, ready to begin a new phase, a new relationship with Christ, a new responsibility to make him present.

So, too, in our own day. We can’t just stand around wishing we could simply stay as we are. Life does not stand still, and we can’t stand still in it. Change is part of life and standing still does not stop change from coming. But we do not face the challenge of change alone. The promises made to the first disciples are promises made also to us. The Holy Spirit is coming, and God's Spirit can fill us, inspire us, change us, transform us, energize us, strengthen us, move us – – if only we will trust in his promise.