Homily for the day of Ascension of the Lord - Year C - Lk. 24:46-53
Father Daniel Meynen
"Jesus said to his disciples : «Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise again from among the dead; and that proclamation would be made, in His name, of repentance and forgiveness of sins to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem. You are witnesses as to these things. And remember that I am about to send out my Father's promised gift to rest upon you. But, as for you, wait patiently in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.»
"And He brought them out to within view of Bethany, and then lifted up His hands and blessed them. And while He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into Heaven. They worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. Afterwards they were continually in attendance at the Temple, blessing God."
"Jesus said to his disciples : «Thus it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise again from among the dead; and that proclamation would be made, in His name, of repentance and forgiveness of sins to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem. You are witnesses as to these things.»"
During his life among us, Jesus chose disciples, most notably those who were called Apostles: that is to say the messengers of Christ, the messengers of the Good New of Salvation. For it was necessary that the work of Jesus continue after his departure into Heaven, where he is, for all eternity, in the glory of his Father and in the love of the Holy Spirit. The disciples of Jesus were specially chosen, for they were called to follow Christ in his life and in his death. Of the twelve Apostles, all died as martyrs, having offered up their life for the gospel, following the example of Christ. Only Saint John died at an old age, but he was not spared sufferings during his life. All of them followed Jesus in his Passion in order to share in his Resurrection.
The disciples of Christ, the Apostles, were witnesses of the life of Christ and they reproduced it in their own lives. They testified, to the end, to all that they had seen in Jesus: Passion and Resurrection, ignominy and glory, death and life! Saint John expressed this in his first epistle: "That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life ... that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you may have fellowship with us." (1 Jn. 1:1, 3)
Today, the Church still proclaims the Good New of Salvation, following in the footsteps of the Apostles and in communion with them: even today, there are still witnesses of the Passion and of the Resurrection of Christ on earth! They are, now, witnesses in faith who proclaim the gospel of God, witnesses who have seen and touched Christ through faith, through hope, through charity: they are witnesses who have seen Christ supernaturally, through faith, without ever having seen him with their physical eyes and without having touched him with their bodily hands. Today, the witnesses of the gospel are the blessed ones of whom Jesus speaks when he says: "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe!" (Jn. 20:29)
"And He brought them out to within view of Bethany, and then lifted up His hands and blessed them. And while He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into Heaven. They worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy."
Finally, the hour of his departure from the earth was arrived for Jesus. On the Mount of Olives, close to Jerusalem (cf. Acts 1:12), Jesus addressed a final speech to his disciples. He gave them his last instructions: "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth." (Acts 1:8) This is Jesus' final instruction to his disciples: "You shall be my witnesses ..." And immediately after that, Jesus was taken up into Heaven: "When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight." (Acts 1:9) Then, the disciples "worshipped Him," as Saint Luke writes in today's gospel.
In this final meeting with Jesus, the Apostles are witnesses of the glory of Heaven: they don't see Heaven yet, but they do see all its power, that part of it which appeals to the heart of man, all that Jesus felt in his body and in his soul during this final moment of his life on earth. And the disciples were filled with joy: "They returned to Jerusalem with great joy." It is not an earthly joy, but rather a heavenly joy: the Apostles are happy, and glad for having seen their Lord in Glory after having witnessed his painful Passion. They are now the witnesses of the joy of Heaven in order that they might willingly follow Christ throughout their life, ready to imitate him even unto death.
The Church is also invited to participate in the joy of Heaven. Today, and every day of our life, we can remember Jesus who is in the glory of Heaven. This is what we are going to do during the course of this celebration. The Eucharist is the memorial of the Passion and of the Resurrection of the Lord. Let us ask Mary, who was present at all the important moments of the life of her Son, to help us to believe in the eternal Life which is in Jesus and which is given to us in his Eucharist!