Then he led them out as far as Bethany,
raised his hands, and blessed them.
As he blessed them he parted from them
and was taken up to heaven.
They did him homage
and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy,
and they were continually in the temple praising God. (Lu 24:50-53)
And so it is.
Jesus bids farewell to his disciples on Mount Olivet (Mount of Olives) and ascends to his Father in heaven.
But before departing, he tells them, “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.”
That is a loaded sentence and one we would do well to meditate upon on this Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.
The promise of the Father. What does that mean? What does that look like in your life?
I encourage you – as I’ll be doing myself – to climb to the top of Mount Olivet and place yourself in the presence of our Lord. Pretend that you’re one of the Apostles. Your Friend, Mentor, and Savior is about to leave. And that after having lived among you for three years, suffering an agonizing Passion, enduring excruciating Crucifixion, being buried in the Tomb for three days, rising, and appearing to you over the past 40 days.
Talk about an emotional roller coaster!
After the elation of having Jesus return to them after the Resurrection, the disciples must endure a final parting – Jesus clearly is going home to his Father and leaving them behind.
That kind of sadness is difficult for me to imagine. When a loved one dies, you have a funeral and bury him or her and that’s the end of it. You know that you won’t see your dear one until you both are delighting in Eternity. Nor do you expect to see him or her before that time.
It was different with our Lord’s followers. They buried Jesus hoping in the promise of the Resurrection and they received it. But only for a little more than a month. Then… the Ascension.
Ah, but there is a bright side. Jesus assured them that he would send the promise of the Father upon them.
The Father will send the Spirit to console, enlighten, and encourage them. The Paraclete, the Consoler, will descend upon them at Pentecost. In the meantime, they’re to stay in the city of Jerusalem and wait.
Today, we enter into that waiting period.
Our Lord has ascended into heaven, and we are left standing at the top of Mount Olivet, looking after him. How inexpressibly joyful that reunion between Father and Son must have been! How inexpressibly sad the hearts of those left behind!
The Spirit will come and they will be clothed with the power from on high. The Spirit will change everything. They must only trust in our Lord and surrender themselves to the Father.
Jesus’ promise to his disciples is the same promise he has extended to us.
Our present circumstances are much like the time of the Apostles in the Upper Room from Ascension to Pentecost. We’re in an inbetween time as we transition from lockdowns, shutdowns, and stay home orders into a time of venturing out into the world to resume life. Or we must create a new one depending on how much was lost during the quarantines. We wait in our private Upper Rooms full of fear and uncertainty, perhaps. We know that our Lord has promised us that all things work for good for those who love him. This pandemic, too, will work for good, somehow, someday. Maybe sooner, maybe later, but good will come of it. Just as he told the Apostles, he tells us, “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you.” Jesus’ promise is a sure thing.
And so now we await the coming of the Spirit when we will be clothed with the power from on high. If we open our hearts to him, he will fill us with the fire of his love, the passion of his courage, and the security of his wisdom as we go forth. Our Lord’s parting words to his disciples are his sending-out words for us, “ “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”