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We Have Also Ascended: Living the Message of the Feast!

5/24/2004 - 5:42 AM PST

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By: Deacon Keith A Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC

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"Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni," which means Teacher. Jesus said to her, "Stop holding on to me, 10 for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" The Gospel of St John, Chapter 20: 16, 17

“And he said to them, "Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And (behold) I am sending the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high." Then he led them (out) as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God.” The Gospel of St Luke 24: 47-53

“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.” The beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, Chapter 1:1-9

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In many of our Churches we just celebrated the Feast of the Ascension of Jesus Christ. The Scriptural passages set forth at the beginning of this reflection were among the many that we have heard proclaimed from pulpits throughout the world. We have also been encouraged to begin a concentrated time of prayer in preparation for the Feast of Pentecost, which the Christian tradition heralds as the “birthday” of the Church.

Both of these Feasts have great importance for us in this pivotal time in human history, the Third Christian Millennium. Yet, both of these Feasts are often either misunderstood or seen as something from the distant past with little relevance for today. In fact, they are profoundly relevant and vitally important for our age.

They provide a framework for understanding the Christian life and mission. They are also intended to become signposts, pointing those who bear the name “Christian” on a path toward faithfulness and fruitfulness in our challenge to continue the redemptive mission of Jesus Christ into a new missionary age.

In this reflection, I want to share some thoughts regarding the deeper meaning of the Ascension. Next Week, I will address Pentecost.

Let me begin with an excerpt from a sermon that the great western Church Father Augustine gave on the Feast of the Ascension:

“Today our Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven; let our hearts ascend with him. Listen to the words of the Apostle: If you have risen with Christ, set your hearts on the things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God; seek the things that are above, not the things that are on earth.

For just as he remained with us even after his ascension, so we too are already in heaven with him, even though what is promised us has not yet been fulfilled in our bodies.Christ is now exalted above the heavens, but he still suffers on earth all the pain that we, the members of his body, have to bear. He showed this when he cried out from above: Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? and when he said: I was hungry and you gave me food.

Why do we on earth not strive to find rest with him in heaven even now, through the faith, hope and love that unites us to him? While in heaven he is also with us; and we while on earth are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. We cannot be in heaven, as he is on earth, by divinity, but in him, we can be there by love.

He did not leave heaven when he came down to us; nor did he withdraw from us when he ...

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