The Ascension: Up, Up, But Not Away!
The period between the feasts of Ascension and Pentecost is an interesting one. It has been called the “already but not yet period”. I sometimes think that for many of us this already but not yet time is where we spend most of our lives.
We are always looking back to the time and life of Jesus on the one hand, and looking forward to the coming of the Pentecost experience in our own lives. And it’s always in the future, this Pentecost experience.
The present, where we live, is that strange time between the two in which the two are always present, but where we have difficulty in merging them in a way that is meaningful and helpful. So what sense are we to make of the Ascension? I remember one theology student colleague saying that it was simply a case of Up, Up, but Not Away!
At the Ascension, before moving beyond their sight, Jesus told his disciples to continue his saving activity in the world. They were to be his witnesses. They were to make disciples of all the nations by going out to the whole world. They were, in effect, commissioned to lead people to conversion by proclaiming the Good News to everyone.
The Ascension, then, was not the conclusion of Jesus’s redemptive work. Rather, it simply marked the handing over of his mission to his disciples and, in turn, to their disciples, and finally to us. In a sense, the Ascension is the beginning in faith of our response to all that he did and which we must continue in his name. Although Jesus ascended to the Father, he continues his saving work in our world in and through each one of us.
And what we need to remember most during this “in between time” is that he is still with us. John’s Gospel records the wonderful fact that Jesus once prayed for each of us.
“I pray for them: I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, because they belong to you”. (John 17:9).
How reassuring is that, especially in these difficult days!