When we come to celebrate the Ascension of Jesus all manner of things can tend to get in the way. For a start, many people can overstate the literal details in the first reading today, from the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, what with all the information of Jesus being lifted up into the clouds and the disciples lost in wonder as they look up into the sky. But it is in the Gospel today, the final verses from the end of the Gospel of Matthew that provides the best context to understand the Ascension.
It is only in understanding the Trinity that we understand the place of the Ascension. It is only there that the declaration of Jesus on yet another mountain that all authority in both created realms – heaven and earth – have been given to him. It is the Ascension that demonstrates the unity that Jesus has with the Father as the unseen source of all life and the Holy Spirit as the breath of life that sustains us now and always. The mission is the centre of all of this – the God that Jesus reveals is the missionary God who sent his healing love into the world in the person of Jesus and now because of the Ascension, his followers are sent out into the world with the same healing love. Baptism is then the sign and seal of this mission.
Although the instruction to baptise people in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit quickly became a liturgical formula in the life of the church, it probably is here a powerful description of what kind of life disciples are being incorporated into. This life is nothing less than the very life of God. This life is offered to any person who is willing to repent and believe in Jesus as the fulfilled Messiah, now reigning in the realm of heaven, but whose spirit is now available to all believers. And that is very good news indeed.
Recorded at St Paul’s, 10am (9’55”)
Ascension Sunday, Year A.
Acts 1.1-11; Ephesians 1.17-23; and Matthew 28.16-20
Also available: Evening Mass recording and Journey Radio Program (text above)