Sunday Readings in Brief: Ascension 2021
Acts 1:1-11; Ps 46(47); Eph 1:17-23; Lk 24:46-53
Dear friends, today is the feast of the ascension of the risen Lord. It is forty days since the resurrection. Today he is bidding farewell to his disciples but only temporarily because he promised to come back. As he left them, Jesus gave his disciples the mission to go out there and witness the good news to all humanity. However, he first instructed them to remain in Jerusalem until he could send them the Holy Spirit who would help them in their mission.
Just like many of us, the disciples were anxious to know whether this was the time when the kingdom of Israel would be restored. It seems that still, the disciples had not yet understood the real meaning of the “kingdom of God”. Still, they had not fully understood what the Kingdom of God entailed. Jesus knew that after they had received the Holy Spirit everything would be clear to them.
Jesus sends his disciples to go and preach repentance and forgiveness in his name. In our society dominated by lies, delusion, violence, injustice, inequality, irresponsibility, selfishness, greed, politics of hatred, and many other evil forces that have taken us captives, Jesus is instructing us to preach change that would lead to a new world.
In the Gospel of Mark 16:15-20, Jesus reveals to the disciples that if they act in his NAME, they would perform the signs that he performed. However, the disciples could only perform them not in their capacity but “in the name of Jesus”. They would be able to cast out demons, speak new languages, hold dangerous serpents without harm, survive poisoning, and heal the sick by laying their hands upon them. He was giving them immunity to all dangers they would face in the cause of preaching the Gospel. This is very important because the world is full of opposition towards the Good News. It means the end of business for those who profited through the ignorance of the masses.
For them to be effective in the mission of preaching the Gospel, Jesus gives them, the Spirit who would help them do the things that he did. As Christians, when we are baptized and confirmed in our faith we receive the Holy Spirit who enables us to perform the things that Jesus performed. St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians is explaining Jesus is the head of the Church, which is his own body. We need to be aware that the Church is not a human enterprise but has Jesus as its Chief Executive Officer.
Nevertheless, today many people have misinterpreted the meaning of the mission to preach the Gospel. In a world where everything has been commercialized, and many are seeking alternative ways to live better life other than hard work and perseverance, the preaching of the gospel of prosperity based on quick-fix-miracles has become the most profitable business. In the name of the Gospel, many have established business entities to delude innocent people and con them of their money and possessions. To make their business even more attractive, they use all kinds of tricks including stage-managed “miracles”.
People who do not want to follow the long and tedious process of attaining a “good life” through hard work and perseverance, think that miracles are the best shortcut. This has led those with sharp entrepreneur minds to design custom-made “miraculous products” for every need. The Gospel that was supposed to be voluntary and faith-driven has become a product like any other in the market. However, those who are keen enough will be able to distinguish what true faith in Jesus is and what is not. Do not be deceived or deceive yourself because nothing good comes easy. Jesus had to give his life for us to be saved.
Finally, we have read that after Jesus had been taken from them, the disciples returned to Jerusalem full of Joy. This is different from the day when Jesus was crucified. It was a good end with a promise. Now Jesus will no longer be present to them physically but rather in Spirit.
Dear friends, I invite us to embrace fully the new life receive through the Spirit and live according to what we have learned from Jesus Christ.
Have a blessed Sunday.
Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD.