“… each one of us will face a moment when eternity whispers into our hearts, This is your time.”
The Ascension of Jesus takes us to a crossroads in time. The time of the Emmanuel, God-With-Us, Jesus, the visible presence of God the Father – “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father” – has now passed and it is now the time of the Church. As Jesus gathers the apostles together for the last time he is handing on the mission of establishing the Kingdom of God to the apostles. This is now their time. It is their time to be witnesses to all that they have experienced in their personal encounters with Jesus, the Christ. Jesus tells his apostles in Acts, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses…to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1,8) During the time of his public ministry and for forty days after his resurrection, Jesus prepared the apostles for the time when he would hand on the mission of proclaiming the Kingdom of God to them. Luke tells us in Acts, “He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 1,2)
The apostles are commissioned and sent out to the world to be witnesses of what they had seen and experienced in their time with the Lord. Their testimony of faith is supported by “many proofs” that are given to them by the Lord. Their mission is not to speculate about eternal life and the nature of God but to bear witness to what can be known of the Father through the Son. As Paul affirms in his letter to the Ephesians, “May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call…” (Eph 1,17)
The knowledge of faith is not based upon human speculation but upon human experience of the revelation of the Father made visible in the Incarnate Word, the Son of God, Jesus the Christ. As John affirms for us, “What we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life – for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life that was with the father and was made visible to us – what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you.” (1Jn 1,1-3) The two men dressed in white garments, the angels at the tomb and at the mountain of the Ascension, also affirm their mission to be witnesses, “Why are you looking up into the sky?” The time for seeing is passed and now is the time to persevere in faith. They will not find what they are looking for up in the sky but now they must look deep into their hearts, enlightened by the Indwelling Spirit. These same two angels questioned the apostles at the tomb of Jesus, “Why do you seek the living one among the dead?” (Luke 24,5) Jesus lives and the apostles are now sent to proclaim eternal life in Jesus through a living experience of his presence in the Church, the Body of Christ.
“As they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” (Acts 1,9) The cloud is the Shekinah Presence of God, the cloud that guided the children of Israel, the cloud which spoke at Jesus’ baptism and at the Mount of Transfiguration. Jesus is taken up into the Father and hidden in God. “Your life is hidden with Christ in God.” (Col 3,3) The one who came from the Father now returns to the Father. “I came from the Father and have come in to the world. Now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” (Jn 16,28) Jesus is leaving the apostles but he will not leave them alone, he will come to them and will dwell in them through the Spirit whom he sends to be with them. The one who was with them will now be in them.
“When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted.” (Mt 28,17) They worshiped the Lord, grateful for the gift of his presence with them and the gifts that he had bestowed upon them but they also doubted. They doubted themselves and their ability to do greater things. “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these, because I am going to the Father.” (Jn 14,12) Now is their time. Their time to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” (Mt 28,19) As human persons we are a mixture of faith and doubt. We are empowered by the gift of the Spirit but we are always aware of our weakness and limitations. Now is not the time to question but to proclaim. Now is the time to “live the mystery of being all you can be.” The mission has been handed on, now it is your time. Go out and make a difference with your life doing “the greater things” that Jesus has called us to do. This is your time.