Jesus spent 40 days appearing to his disciples after his Resurrection from the dead. He did not live with them as he had before. At various times, he would appear to them with some kind of instruction. Saint Paul tells us that he appeared to over 500 disciples at one time.
At the end of those 40 days, Jesus led the apostles to Bethany, and there, on a mountain, he spoke to them for the last time. In Matthew’s Gospel we are told that he gave them what has come to be known as the Great Commission. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations. Baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey all that I have commanded you. And know that I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
In the Acts of the Apostles, which is read this weekend, Jesus gives them final instructions and promises that they will receive power from on high (the Holy Spirit) and that they were to be his witnesses “in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Then Jesus is taken away from them, ascending back to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father. Throughout Scripture, God’s presence is represented by a cloud. It is a pillar of cloud that leads the Hebrews through the desert. The cloud, representing God’s presence and glory, fills the Temple. At the Transfiguration, God comes cloaked in the cloud and announces, “This is my Beloved Son. Listen to Him.” In the Ascension, Jesus is lifted up and enters into the cloud returning to the Father’s glory.
The Ascension of Jesus completes his earthly journey. He descends from heaven, in the Incarnation, and ascends back to heaven at his Ascension. Saint Paul teaches us that we are the Body of Christ here on earth, and that we who are members of his Body will ascend with him when our time comes to leave this world. So his Ascension is Good News, for he takes us with him to the Father.
Although the 40th day after Easter was this past Thursday, the celebration of the Ascension is celebrated this Sunday.
— Fr. Mike Comer