C Cycle – Feast of the Ascension 22
Luke in his own words tells us why he wrote both the Acts of the Apostles and his gospel. In the opening words of his gospel, he says what he wrote was so we would “realize the certainty of the teachings we have received” (Lk.1:4). Then in his opening words from his Acts of the Apostles he reinforces the focus of his gospel was all about what Jesus did and taught. He is telling us to zero in on what Jesus did and taught. He is telling us what Jesus did is just as important as what he taught. We know from the scriptures the things he did upset the Pharisees. The things Jesus did constantly challenge what the Pharisees believed as necessary to please God and by Jesus’s actions, he showed them how far off their image of God was. Jesus challenged the Pharisees reliance on the law and by their harsh judgment of sinner’s acceptance by God.
In his opening words in Acts, Luke shows us how the disciples up to the ascension of Jesus were still unable to make sense of his appearing and uncertain how to move forward. Jesus’s words to them are critical to us today for they tell us we need more than signs and wonders, more than teaching, more insights into what his life and death achieved for us. In his last words to them he was preparing all of us to open ourselves to receive more than salvation won by his death. We just need to read the gospel of Luke and through it receive a great refresher course in God’s desire to celebrate each of us as if we were the prodigal son.
If we have achieved understanding through what we have been taught about our faith, why do we still struggle with doubt. Why do we still experience evil each day and why do we still feel uncertain about our relationship with God. Again, Luke reminds us of God’s desire for us and his promises he made to us. God promised to change our hearts. He promised us we would not have to teach one another about God for we will all have an intimate relationship with him and through intimacy with God, we would know him. He promised us he would forgive our sins and remember our guilt no more. Those three promises God made to us through the prophet Jeremiah. You can read them in the 31st chapter of Jeremiah beginning with verse 33. Those promises and the promise God made to us through the prophet Ezekiel (Ez.36:26) to change our hearts were referred to by ancient Israel as the promise of the spirit.
The disciple’s confusion continued as Jesus was taken to heaven and as they stood there looking up two men with dazzling garments appear and said, “why are you looking at the sky.” Why indeed, I would think watching Jesus ascend in glory would leave any of us staring at the spot where he disappeared. Any one of us would be awe struck and unmoving and any of us would still be confused as to what it all means.
We can and do have moments in our own journey when we look up to heave and wonder what it all means. What happened in Texas this week is a prime example of our confusion about of how evil still exists in our lives. This gospel is clear the answers are not found by looking at the sky but by following God’s plan and awaiting his promise. In fact, it is in realizing our focus is centered on the wrong things that we can begin to gain insights into what we have missed paying attention to – the promises of God.
Jesus at the beginning of his ministry said to two disciples, “what are you looking for” (Jn. 1:38). We all have a desire to understand, and we seek ways to satisfy this desire to know, for certainty. But, in our quest, we never have taken the time to allow understanding to come to us by unfamiliar sources. Can we define what it is we are looking for and why we continue to seek answers by looking up to the sky? The answers have been given to us by God and are found in defining what it is we desire. Luke shows us the disciple’s concept of the Kingdom of God was not what Jesus came to establish on earth. If they spent every minute of every day with Jesus and got it wrong what does that say our understanding of what Jesus came to do for us?
Wait for the promise of God were the words spoken to the disciples after Jesus ascended. Wait, pray, and believe is all that they or we need to do and all else is given to us by God. We do not have to do anything, but we do need to wait with expectant faith for the “baptism of water and fire.” Did you notice while they were waiting how they went to the temple daily and praised God boldly and loudly before those who had him crucified? What ae you looking for; why are you looking at the sky? Those are questions for us to reflect on and like them realize we are not going to find any answers until we receive the promise of the Father.
Brothers and sisters, we need to become recipients of the promises of God given to us long before Jesus’ cane to earth and long before he died for our sins. God put in effect a plan to restore us, forgive us and to change us. His changing us is something we have trouble allowing to happen in our lives because we do not know how to be still and wait. We are programmed to do and take charge of our relationship with God. We do not want to lose control and that is why we continue to look for answers by looking at the sky. Yet grow in our ability to trust God’s plan to change our hearts. Our changed hearts will move us to seek the arms of the father. It is then we will discover we have all we need to appropriate the grace of forgiveness and then allow the Holy Spirit to change our hearts.
Take this next week and pray, invite the Holy Sprit into your heart, open the door and invite Jesus to allow his death to teach you about forgiveness. Then in the quiet of your day open your mouth and give voice to your desires to God.
Come Holy Spirit and fill our hearts.