EMPOWERED FOR MISSION
Ascension Sunday, May 12, 2013
Today’s readings: Acts 1:1-11; Ps 47:2-9; Eph 1:17-23; Lk 24:46-53
After his earthly mission, Jesus ascended into heaven. Jesus “parted from them and was taken up to heaven” (Lk 24:51), as “he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.” (Acts 1:9b).
Before he ascended into heaven, Jesus commissioned his disciples to carry on his work, as he told them, “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.” (Lk 24:47-48). He had formed them, he had trained them for three years, he had sent them on mission, and now they were on their own.
But how could mere human flesh do divine work? They needed to be empowered. And so Jesus also told them, “stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” (Lk 24:49b). How was that to come about? They needed to “be baptized with the holy Spirit.” (Acts 1:5b).
What happens with the baptism in the Holy Spirit? Jesus says, “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.” (Acts 1:8). The baptism in the Spirit is empowerment for worldwide mission.
This is the very power of God, given to human beings in order to fulfill the very commission of Jesus. It is a continuation of God’s work of salvation. The Father sent His Son, who suffered and died for us in order to win for us our salvation. God worked in power, “raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens (Eph 1:20). Now, through baptism in the Spirit upon those whom God has called and chosen, we “know what is the hope that belongs to his call.” (Eph 1:18b). What is that? It “is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might” (Eph 1:19).
With Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the power of the enemy has been shattered. God “put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things” (Eph 1:22). “For God is king over all the earth” (Ps 47:8a), with Jesus reigning “far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come.” (Eph 1:21). Now this “great king over all the earth …. made people subject to us, nations under our feet” (Ps 47:3b-4a). Not only are all things under the feet of Jesus, but all nations are under our feet. We have been given the power of God to do greater works, in order to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth, and bring God’s dominion over all the nations.
In working at the New Evangelization, we help establish God’s dominion on earth, while Jesus the King awaits in heaven. “God rules over the nations; God sits upon his holy throne.” (Ps 47:9). Unlike the disciples, we need no longer ask, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6b). Jesus already has, but we need to work so that the nations of the earth will recognize such authority, and accept Jesus as Savior and Lord. Then Jesus will come again, as “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 1:11b).
So let us do our part. Let us get to work. Let us not wait for two men dressed in white garments to stand beside us and say, “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?” (Acts 1:11a). Let us be about the work of the New Evangelization.
God bless you all.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil 1:21)