Ascension, Year A-2011
- We ... groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23—NAB)
The risen Jesus’ apparitions and instructions to the apostles during a period of forty day—not to mention the lessons imparted for a longer period before his death—were apparently not enough for them to acquire a better and greater understanding. Until the end they appeared hung up on something that should no longer be an issue, given earlier teachings (Mk. 13:32; Lk. 19:11; 21:7) , and they ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” It looks like their longing for the full restoration of the Jewish people and the defeat of the invaders, along with their having their sights on positions of honor and power, prevented them from getting the point in Jesus’ instruction regarding “the promise of the Father.” Even after Jesus’ clarification, the apostles’ understanding proved uncertain because there they stood looking intently at the sky as if they had not heard anything about the obligation to be the risen Jesus’ witnesses, a responsibility called for by the interim period between the Ascension of the Lord and what it gave a preview of, namely, the glorious return of the same Lord.
I think we Christians today, no less than the apostles and the first disciples, give ourselves away as somewhat foolish and slow at heart to understand our Lord correctly and duly. It does seem that indeed our Christian formation is a project or a task for life and that always to be reformed is the Church which is us. We continue to need someone to wish us: “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.”
For example, do not we allow, not infrequently, something that interests us to color our vision and influence our hearing that we end up seeing or hearing only what we want to see and hear? Or do not we members of the Church get so absorbed, say, in defending it as an institution that is part and parcel of our national or cultural identity, and which provides us with personal or social stability, that we have very little energy left to make sure that it really is the body and the witness of the risen Jesus and that it shows itself as the foundational sacrament that makes present in the world the one who is the primordial sacrament, so that it fulfills its mission, despite certain doubts, of going and making disciples of all nations?
Or could it be that we have much to lose and are afraid to lose what we have? Are not we perhaps too fat because of what we possess or crave to possess, including self-importance or the airs we put on, that we fall under our own weight and we cannot ascend? To be lifted up, even if only through prayer—to which we should devote ourselves as did those who were gathered in the upper room, together with some women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers, if we are to be capable of anything, as St. Vincent indicated —one needs to be light and poor, one has to empty oneself and be detached from everything and depend absolutely on God .
And, as we have been taught repeatedly, the heavy and overbearing, the rich and the proud, these stay down, lying on the ground, hungry, thrown down from their high positions. The poor, on the other hand, are nourished to the full by the flesh and blood of the Poorest of the poor as they proclaim his death until he returns, training themselves thus to praise God now in order to be ready, in the words of St. Augustine of Hippo, for the future life of eternal praise of God .
-  InterVarsity Press New Testament Commentaries at http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/commentaries/IVP-NT/Acts/Jesus-Postresurrection (accessed June 1, 2011).
-  P. Coste XI, 83.
-  Ibid. XI, 223-228, 342-351; XII, 19-26, 227-244.
-  Cf. the non-biblical reading in the Office of Reading for Saturday, Fifth Week of Easter, Liturgy of the Hours.