Ascension: The Echo of Easter Light in the Darkness

Ascension: The Echo of Easter Light in the Darkness

May 14, 2024 0 By BLACKCATHOLIC

The following meditation is based off the readings for the Solemnity of the Ascension (Year B 2024).

Meditation continues below Scripture selections:

In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for “the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

When they had gathered together they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? 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.”

Acts 1:1-11

Brothers and sisters, I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit, as you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, it says: “He ascended on high and took prisoners captive; he gave gifts to men.” What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended into the lower regions of the earth? The one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.

And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ.

Eph 4:1-13

Jesus said to his disciples: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved; whoever does not believe will be condemned. These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

So then the Lord Jesus, after he spoke to them, was taken up into heaven and took his seat at the right hand of God. But they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs.

Mk 16:15-20

The clouds came and covered the Son, and just like that the Apostles were in the dark.

(That is, in the dark at least before the illuminating flame of the Holy Spirit came.)

But if we are honest, the apostles had already been in the dark in one crucial way leading into the scene of our first reading from the book of Acts.

And this darkness that they possessed “showed” itself (so to speak) in the very question they asked Jesus right before He ascended into heaven.

They asked Him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Now, coming from a tradition of the common understanding of the Messianic prophecies of the time, this was a decent question.

Maybe even a fair one.

Because after seeing this Guy, Jesus, take the most brutal punishment the Roman oppressors of Israel could dish out to the point of death, and not just rise from the dead to possess the same body but to somehow have that same body be transformed to be more powerful than before, the apostles probably thought surely NOW is the time.

NOW He is going to finally overthrow Israel’s enemies for good and reestablish the earthly kingdom the glories of which have not been seen since the time of David.

Keep in mind, this new and improved Jesus of Nazareth, has been chilling around making appearances to all sorts of people for 40 days straight.
So they knew something was about to happen – it HAD to happen at this point.

He even told them, “You might wanna stay in Jerusalem for what I got coming next.”

But though they had been basking in glow of the original Easter Light of the resurrected Christ for 40 days, their minds were still dim.

Their expectations for the immediate establishment of an earthly, political messianic kingdom only proved one thing:

The Apostles were still in the dark about the true nature of Jesus’s mission.

They still were fumbling around in the lamp-less room of their understanding, tripping over the stumbling blocks of their previous ideals and conventions about what they thought the Messiah was supposed to be and do.

But before we fault our boys too much, they were only presenting what they honestly thought and had received from others.

They were trying their best to take in all the Easter Light they could, but they were struggling in the dark.

And in the face of this what did Jesus tell them?

“It is not for you to know right now, but wait for something to come.”

“I promise.”

I see that sometimes we are not too different from the apostles here.

We too have been basking in the Easter Light for 40 days.

We too have long been seeing the Risen Lord ever since He stepped back on the scene after stepping out of the tomb.

We too are gathered now at the very moment when the Risen Lord becomes an Ascended Lord.

And so we look up, and we peer up, then we squint our eyes as the clouds start to blend away the white of His garments, and our hearts may be crying out:

“Not now Jesus! Don’t leave yet, Lord!”

Again, I said sometimes we are not too different from the apostles because,

We too can feel like we are still in the dark even after the Easter Light has come.

Anybody feel that way right now?

We might have entered into this season with some of our own expectations and hopes.

Expectations of something different.

Hopes for some of that Easter joy that is characteristic of what we think this season is supposed to be and do.

But there has been 40 days of celebrating Light while the light of our souls might have been flickering dim.
Because regardless of what the liturgical calendar may say the struggles we have still continue.

Maybe because Lent didn’t go so well so this Easter wasn’t as inspiring as it could be.

And at the end of the day we are all seeking to have good spiritual lives and connections with God through our Catholic faith even in the midst of various forms of struggling in one way or another.

And so through these days of Easter Light our little ember has been flickering because of this trial.

And dim because of that tribulation.

We are trying our best to take in all the Easter light we can but we have been struggling in the dark.

Thus, there is room for us in the apostles’ question actually, but then it takes on different forms:

“Lord, are you at this time going to restore:
Peace to my life?
Relief to my soul?
Hope to my spirit?
Faith to my heart?”
Vision to my eyes so that I can see what you are doing in my life?”

These are the cries of God’s people Israel today.

In the face of this, what does Jesus seem to tell us?

“The full plan for it all is not for you to know right now, but wait for something to come.”

“I promise.”

At first we might still feel low because we are going through the valley.

But our second reading from Ephesians tells us something too.

Something that we need to hear.

Because though we might feel down in the lower regions of the soul,

Do we not have a God who has “descended into the lower regions of the earth?” 

Do we not have a Lord who has taken “prisoners captive” into freedom?

Do we not have a Christ who has been lifted up to the highs?

Let me answer that for you: We do!

Say it again? We do!

One more time? We do!

And so it is the ascending Jesus that comforts and prepares His apostles and promises them the Holy Spirit Who will bestow upon them the definitive Light they need concerning Jesus’s mission for them.

Jesus gave His apostles comfort in the words He had left with them concerning the Kingdom of God, and they received true hope from His teachings. For as it is written, “I remember your decrees of old, and these, Lord, console me” (Ps. 119:52)

Jesus gave His apostles comfort by the very power of the ascension itself because Jesus lifted Himself up to heaven and sent two of His angels at that very moment to testify to this last great visible act. 

Through this the Lord let them know that even though He had to go, He was in charge and all power belonged to Him.

Jesus gave His apostles comfort through the great “promise of the Father” He made to them before He ascended that was also tied to His ascension. He had to ascend in order for them to receive the final consolation of what was to come.

And Jesus prepared His apostles through His ascension as well, for He accomplished what St. Paul proclaimed to the Ephesians – Jesus “ascended far above the heavens, that he might fill all things” with the “grace that was given to each of us.”

This was the grace of the Ascension.

And this was the grace given to the apostles would make them the Lord’s “witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

This was the grace given to the apostles that bestowed upon them the gifts of being made the prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers that the “work of ministry” needed when the power of the Holy Spirit later came upon them.

The Light was coming, and they would finally understand the true nature of Jesus’s mission was not for the toppling of Herod and Caesar for the consolation of Israel alone but for the overthrowing of sin and death for salvation of the whole world.

And all this would be fulfilled quickly “in a few days.”

My brothers and sisters, these “few days” are for us as well.

For Jesus makes the power of His ascension felt in our lives and promises us the light of the Holy Spirit.

I said earlier that some of us might have been in the valley of the lower regions of our earthen souls.

So allow Christ to descend to meet you there and then ascend with you to take you to where He is, “at the right hand of the Father.” From there “he will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.”

And so I proclaim for you, “men [and women] of Galilee” that 40 days ago you were baptized with Easter water, and “in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

But for now prepare your eyes to look up during Mass, for you shall see the Lord Jesus ascended from the altar above a cloud of incense.

[Lectionary for Mass for Use in Dioceses of the United States – Confraternity of Christian Doctrine] – Fair Use