The feast of the Ascension

25 May

There is probably too much to take in with all the readings for this feast. The first is from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles; it tell us that prior to this he wrote what we call Luke’s gospel and from which today’s gospel reading comes – none of the other NT writings describe this ‘event’ of Jesus being visibly taken up in a cloud. We are told also of the forth-coming feast of Pentecost and the coming of the Spirit, but it is simpler to think chiefly of the Ascension of Jesus.

After His death, the gospels relate a number of appearances to illustrate that not only is Jesus still alive, but somewhat transformed and still present with His disciples. The very best and most straightforward ‘appearance’ that illustrates this is Luke’s account of the two disciples walking to Emmaus with a ‘stranger’ – whom they come to see as Jesus. The cloud that appears in the Ascension accounts draws on the symbolism of clouds in the Old Testament – the various events related, like when Moses meets God on mount Sinai. There were always occasions when God’s invisible presence was recognised; and even today people, religious and non-religious, sometimes see some view, event or person as transcendent and wonderful, which they might express artistically, poetically or even religiously. This is the meaning of the cloud; Jesus still lives and is present in the whole of creation and in a special way in people; Christians are to try to live recognising this presence of God in nature and especially in other human beings.

The meaning of the Ascension for us today is not just to accept that Jesus is now with God in heaven, but that His presence is mysteriously (as in a cloud) present everywhere and our behaviour as humans (especially Christians) is to treat creation with care and respect and other people as fellow humans with Jesus. Let us renew our commitment to this our role in life!

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