AscA17. Acts of the Apostles 1:1-11. Luke begins his history of the beginnings of the Church established by Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah or Christ by addressing his writings to Theophilus, which is Greek meaning ‘lover of God’. Perhaps what he really means to say is ‘to all of you who love God’. Luke sets up a timeline of forty days after the resurrection during which Jesus presented himself alive to prove that he truly had arisen and to prepare his followers for the coming of the Holy Spirit so that they could begin forming the Church based on the spiritual presence of the Holy Spirit and not the physical presence of Jesus.
“When they had gathered together, they asked him, ‘Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?’” That question seems to indicate that they still were thinking that Jesus came to overthrow the Romans and become king of the worldly kingdom of Israel. Jesus sidesteps the question by responding that they are not to know the times that God the Father has established; “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses” everywhere. Jesus then ascended up into heaven. The Apostles were left on the ground astounded and probably quite at a loss at what they had just seen and what it all meant for them. Angels appear saying, “This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” They are predicting the Second Coming of Jesus when he comes to end the physical universe and call all his own to him and to heaven.
Matthew 28:16-20. “When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.” They adored him but they did not know where this was all going to go. As their question in the Acts of the Apostles shows, they wanted to have a worldly based certainty in what they were putting their trust. Faith in Christ is believing that in the end God will make it all work out without us knowing how. The Holy Spirit would help them gain that depth of faith that they did not yet have. Jesus said to them, “All power in heaven and earth has been given to me.” He has been obedient to the Father’s Will to the utmost and so has gained the ultimate victory. He goes to heaven so to give the victory to us to establish his kingdom on earth in the souls of all who are willing to believe in Him. As he made disciples so he empowers us to do likewise making disciples, followers of Jesus who follow him to heaven through the Spirit he sends us. Baptism in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit unites to the One God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” means that what God teaches we believe: nothing more; nothing less. Though not now with us as when he walked physically with his apostles, he is with us spiritually. “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” ‘The end of the age’ is what the angels promised at end of the first reading, i.e. his Second Coming.
Ephesians 1:17-23. Paul asks that we be blessed with a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. My understanding is that Paul is asking that we be blessed with the presence of the Holy Spirit who will enable us to come to know “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” personally throughout our lives. “May the eyes of your heart, i.e., the emotions by which we live daily be enlightened by God so that he himself is our hope to share in the riches of his eternal glory, his awesomeness beyond anything human beings are capable of imagining. God put all things beneath Jesus’ “feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.” Jesus makes all things to be filled with God’s goodness. When we are his, we have everything but without him, we have nothing.