Feast of the Ascension of the Lord Year A ~ May 21, 2023

Feast of the Ascension of the Lord Year A ~ May 21, 2023


For the last six weeks during the Easter Season we have been reflecting on the mystery of the resurrection of the Lord, how he died and suffered for us and rose again from the dead. St. Augustine says that it was impossible for the author of life to stay in the ground. St. Paul rightly says in his First letter to Corinthians that if we don’t rise with him, then he didn’t rise…. For the last two Sundays we have been reflecting on the consoling words of the Lord. He knows what is going on in the mind of the disciples after listening to his prophecy. He doesn’t want them to be broken or left alone in their devastation. He sits with them at the table and teaches them about the time to come and how to deal with the things to come on their way. This weekend as we celebrate the Feast of the Ascension of the Lord, we are invited to look again at our relationship with the Lord who before ascending back to his Father, is promising everyone that “till the end of age” he is going to be with us. Why did he only ascend back to his Father after forty days on earth after his resurrection? Why is the number 40 important in the life of Jesus and in our life as well? What does it mean when Jesus says I will be with you “till the end of age”?

St. Cyril of Alexandria says “All who receive the sacred flesh of Christ are united with him as members of his body. This is the teaching of Saint Paul when he speaks of the mystery of our religion that was hidden from former generations but has now been revealed to the holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; namely, that the Gentiles are joint-heirs with the Jews, that they are members of the same body, and that they have a share in the promise made by God in Christ Jesus. If, in Christ, all of us, both ourselves and he who is within us by his own flesh, are members of the same body, is it not clear that we are one, both with one another and with Christ? He is the bond that unites us because he is at once both God and man.

Regarding our unity in the Spirit, we may say, following the same line of thought, that all of us who have received one and the same Spirit, the Holy Spirit, are united intimately, both with one another and with God. Taken separately, we are many, and Christ sends the Spirit, who is both the Father’s Spirit and his own, to dwell in each of us. Yet that Spirit, being one and indivisible, gathers those who are distinct from each other as individuals, and causes them all to be seen as a unity in himself. Just as Christ’s sacred flesh has the power to make those in whom it is present into one body, so the one, indivisible Spirit of God, dwelling in all, causes all to become one in spirit. Therefore, Saint Paul appeals to us to bear with one another charitably, and to spare no effort in securing, by the bonds of peace, the unity that comes from the Spirit. There is but one body and one Spirit, just as there is but one hope held out to us by God’s call. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and works through all, and is in all. If the one Spirit dwells in us, the one God and Father of all will be in us, and he, through his Son, will gather in unity with one another and with himself, all who share in the Spirit. There is also another way of showing that we are made one by sharing in the Holy Spirit. If we have given up our worldly way of life and submitted once for all to the laws of the Spirit, it must surely be obvious to everyone that by repudiating, in a sense, our own life, and taking on the supernatural likeness of the Holy Spirit, who is united to us, our nature is transformed so that we are no longer merely men, but also sons of God, spiritual men, by reason of the share we have received in the divine nature. We are all one, therefore, in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are one in mind and holiness, we are one through our communion in the sacred flesh of Christ, and through our sharing in the one Holy Spirit”.

On one beautiful night, a devotee after worshiping God went to his cozy bed to sleep. It was a cold night of the winter season and in his quilt, he was having a deep sleep. He had a very stunning dream; he dreamed that he was walking along the beautiful beach in the company of his loving God. While he was walking along the seashore, the scenes of different incidents and situations from his life flashed one by one across the dark sky. He kept moving and watching the different stages of his life, the good times as well as bad ones.

After the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back and noticed the footprints in the sand. For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand. One belonged to his own and the other one to his Lord. Suddenly he noticed that many times along the path of his life; especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints.

This really disturbed him, so he asked the God about it. He asked, “God, you said once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why, when I needed you the most, you were not there for me.”

God laughed and after some silence whispered, “My precious child, I love you and never left you. When you were fine & healthy, I walked beside you. So, the extra pair of footprints were visible. When you saw only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you during your tough times. Whenever you were in difficulties and problems, I was still protecting you.”

The devotee was looking silently with a smiling face towards the Lord. He had no words to express his enhanced faith in the Almighty.

He is always with us and never leaves us alone. Let us reflect on the first question as I believe it is very important for us who haven’t seen the Lord but still believe in him. Why did he only ascend back to his Father after 40 days of his resurrection from the dead? Answer to this question is found in the 40 days of Jesus in the desert where he spent time in prayer and meditation and was tempted by the tempter. Those 40 days for Jesus were very important as he prepared himself for the mission he was about to take and the sacrifice he was about to offer to his Father for our sake. After his resurrection Jesus stayed on earth for 40 days to prepare his disciples for the mission they were about to take on. He had appeared to them and had shown himself in different places and many ways not to confirm about his resurrection but to help them understand that he is divine. While he was appearing to them, he was strengthening them so that they should not be afraid. If we take notice, the promises Jesus made with them while he was them are not  different than what he promises them after his resurrection. His last promise is that “till the end of age” he is always with us. I think 40 days of preparation for his disciples were very important to understand about their following of Jesus is bearing fruit which is going to last forever.

Why number 40 is important in the life of Jesus and in our life as well? These 40 days not only prepare Jesus but also his disciples as well to understand that he is the master of everything. For us these 40 days are meant:

  • To believe that he is the way, the truth and life.
  • Life comes from him, and he is the author of eternal life.
  • We must work to promote the culture of life.
  • We are Easter people and Alleluia is our song and suffering cannot separate us from him.
  • Our hope is found in him who died on the Cross to give us eternal life.
  • God has set his tent among us and will make everything new.

What does it mean when Jesus says I will be with you “till the end of age”? He is Emmanuel which means God is with us. This last promise of Jesus before he ascended back to his Father, has twofold meaning: First he never leaves us alone but holds our hand to walk with us because he cares about us. Secondly it means Jesus will always be with us in our mission though Holy Spirit which only gives us what he hears from the Lord. He knocks at our doors and waits for us to open the door to invite him inside. He calls us “come to me all that are weary and carrying heavy burden and I will give you rest.

 If he is with us till the end of the age, then are we with him?