The Ascension of the Lord, Year C
Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23; Lk 24:46-53
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle B, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2008 and republished in Viet Nam 2011. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable, that might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
The Ascension of Christ gave us the impression that Jesus’ life and work on earth have ended. That is not the case. His followers must continue his work on earth. They must go out to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8; 13:47) to bear witness to Christ and proclaim his message of salvation as Jesus commended.
Among the New Testament writers, Saint Luke is the only one who tells us that Jesus stayed on earth forty days after his resurrection and before the Ascension. Why did Jesus not stay longer in order to continue to teach the apostles more?
In the Old Testament, number forty implied something complete. The Old Testament literature required a student to spend forty days in order to master his teacher’s basic instruction. Thus, number forty days between Easter and Ascension means the apostles were ready to continue his work on earth. Jesus in the desert before his entry to the public life  also relates the period of forty days to forty days of fasting and prayer.
Before the Ascension, Jesus prepared the apostles to continue and develop activities for his kingdom. He established the Church to continue his work of redemption under the guidance of the Holy Spirit saying: On this rock, I will build my church and the jaws of death shall not prevail against it (Mt 16:18).
In addition, he promised to keep their preaching and teaching from being in error in doctrinal matters. By the power of the Holy Spirit, the apostles continued Jesus’ work on earth. At first, their activities were limited in Jerusalem and the environments. Then following Jesus’ command, the apostles increased their activities of their preaching to the Mediterranean countries as Jesus commanded: In his name, penance for the remission of sins is to be preached to all the nations beginning at Jerusalem (Lk 24:47).
The apostles obeyed Jesus to go and preach to all nations and bear witness to their faith in his resurrection as Jesus said: You are witnesses of these things (Lk 24:48). When Judas betrayed his master, the apostles cast lots to select Matthias for the apostolic ministry (Acts 1:26) because Matthias was the one who had followed Jesus from the baptism of John to Jesus’ Ascension (Acts 1:21-22).
After the apostles, other collaborators also bore witness to their faith in Jesus. Through the preaching of the apostles and the sacraments they received and the prayers they offered to God, God also transformed their lives. Then they bore witness to their faith, which they had received.
After the apostles, how did their followers bear witness to their faith? Since the beginning of the Church, hundred thousands of martyrs shed their blood in order to bear witness to their faith in God. Since the foundation of the Church, hundreds of thousands of priests, religious men and women have dedicated their lives working in mission countries, accepting their uncomfortable lives and danger to their lives in order to preach the Gospel of salvation. Since the foundation of the Church, hundreds of thousands of religious priests and brothers and sisters have spent their lives in prayer and contemplation in convents and monasteries and cloisters following the Gospel of Jesus Christ and their religious vows in order to be united with God. Since Christianity began, millions of other priests dedicated their lives in parishes, schools, hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes to serve God in his people. Since the first year of Christianity, millions and millions of laymen and women have been living their faith in their daily lives, bearing witness to their faith by words and deeds in their homes, neighborhoods and market places.
Every one of us by virtue of baptism and confirmation is called upon to bear witness to the faith he/she received. He/she does not have to go to a distant land to bear witness. A housekeeper can be a witness at home and in her neighborhood. An office worker can be a witness in his/her office. A factory worker can be a witness in his/her factory. A police officer can be a witness in society by maintaining law and order. Even a high school, college student can be a witness at school. To do things for the love of God and for the service of his people, that is apostolic work.
However, to do things unwilling in a mechanical way is lacking a motive of witnesses. As disciples of Christ, what did we do and how did we do in order to be witnesses or what will we do in order to bear witness to our faith in God.
Prayer for Jesus’ mission on earth to be continued:
Oh! Lord Jesus!
In heaven, you are no longer present with us physically,
but in your spirit.
You need our hands and feet, our minds and hearts.
You need our possessions and things we have
to continue your work.
Grant us zeal and courage
so that we may be ready
to fulfill our mission on earth. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong
. Carr, W.M. (ed) Instruction for Lectors and Commentators. Vol 12, No. 5. p. 11. Quincy, Illinois. Sunday Missal Service. May 1980.