Why are you standing here looking at the sky? That is a great question – exactly what do we expect from the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ? Think about the reaction of those whom Jesus appeared to during the interval between his resurrection and the time of his ascension.
Over the past 40 days we have heard about moments when they did not recognize him but by his words and actions their eyes were opened. They admit their hearts burned within them as he opened their understanding of the scriptures. He invited Thomas, in the presence of his brother apostles, to touch his hands and his side in order for his doubts to be eliminated. His appearances described in the gospels were not just intended for them. They were recorded for us also and were for us to know exactly what we need to understand about everlasting life and to give witness to what we have come to understand and believe.
Then he stresses the importance of the promise of God to send the Holy Spirit to them and us in order for us to not only understand the forgiveness of sin but in order for us to “…know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe.”
We know from scriptures that Jesus revealed all that would happen to him and we know that they did not understand any of it. Oh they had glimpses and had moments of inspiration but we know they really did not yet understand what it all meant for them. Nor do many of us understand how we are to respond to his death and resurrection.
Now once again they are witnessing another appearance and watch him ascend to heaven and they are looking at the sky – longing for him. What was going through their minds as they gazed towards the heavens? What is going on in our minds at this time in salvation history? Do we understand how the promise of God to change our hearts is all part of what is happening? I spoke of this promise last week and in case you forgot go back and read last week’s homily for the 6th Sunday of Easter in the A Cycle homilies.
Yet as intriguing as this story about his ascension is for us to reflect on the apostle’s response we must remember the scriptures were also given to us to know how we are to respond to his great love. This passage is given to us for us to consider our own response to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
God’s plan to restore us in revealed to us in these words. Do we even understand God is asking us that same question – what is it we are seeking by being here. Do we even understand the connections of these events and Pentecost to the prophecy of Jeremiah (31:33-34) and Ezekiel (36:26-27)? The covenant made on Mt. Sinai when Moses was given the law on tablets of stone and the promise to clothe us with power is critical for us as believers. This connection I will talk about next week but just accept for now the connection of the Moses and the Spirit was deliberate and significant.
The question of what are we looking for and what God is promising is important for us to answer. We cannot ignore it but we must articulate exactly what is it we are looking for. Are we looking for Jesus or have we found him but have not yet been clothed with power from on high? Even if we have found him have we failed to understand God’s plan to restore our glory and the promise of eternal life. What are we looking for in our faith? What are we seeking when we come here each and every week?
Oh yes we have the richness of the scriptures proclaimed to us but do they make our hearts burn within us. Oh yes we have Christ present to us in the Eucharist and that should transform us but does it? Have we failed to understand how his death and resurrection and the promise of the Holy Spirit to change our hearts are not only connected but they should fill us with joy? We need to experience these two event not just believe them. When we experience them we will understand how God’s plan for us is fulfilled.
His words to them were to stay in the city until they received power from on high. This is the message for us also. We need to invite that same Spirit into our hearts so we can stop looking skyward but looking outward to see how and where we can proclaim the message of Jesus and his sacrifice.
Hear the words of Paul in his letter to the Ephesians and meditate on these words from now until Pentecost next week. It does not matter if you can’t remember word for word what Paul wrote: “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him.” Then pray for God to open the eyes of your heart so you can know the riches of his inheritance and the power of him at work in us who believe. Once we open our hearts we will know nothing can ever separate us from the love of God.