[[ Update (May 24 2020): We’ll see if I can’t record the homily today and post it. The post below is from four years ago. ]]
“It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But 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.” When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight. While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them. They said, ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? 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 1:7-11 nab)
The two men (andres)… Are they angels? Are they men? If men, could they be the Law and the Prophets, that is, Moses and Elijah, who, with Jesus, appeared to Peter, James and John on the top of Mount Tabor at the Transfiguration, and who were speaking with Jesus about the exodus, the death which He was to accomplish in Jerusalem. They, in Jesus, as it were, as the Law and the Prophets, would be slain by the great serpent, the ancient dragon. The Apostles need to preach to the whole world about Jesus being the fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. Just a thought. Of course, I love the idea of these two being angels who are reprimanding the Apostles for gawking too long, as they needed to begin their work.
I am reminded of watching planes take off from the local airport which was situated right next to our house when I was a little kid. I would watch and watch until the planes disappeared. I would strain and look and catch another glimpse of the tiny dot in the far distance. Then it would disappear again for seconds on end. And I would strain and look and catch one last glimpse. And I was filled with wonder at what the view of the pilot must be, and about where he was going, and about just how very big the world must be. My dad was a Marine Attack Fighter pilot.
Jesus says that if we love Him, we are happy for Him that He has gone to the Father. Of course, we long to be there with Him. It is not as if He has abandoned us. He is with us until the close of the age. It’s not for us to know the times and seasons. It’s for us to be formed into being members of the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit, who will teach us all things in this way, that is, with us being made to be One with Christ Jesus, looking through, with and in Him to our Heavenly Father.
And although in this world we say, “Abba! Father!” as if we are in the agony of the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus (the Ascension taking place just above that garden), we do so with a heavenly vision of the Father, that is, inasmuch as we are with Jesus. Unlike us, who, please God, will have the beatific vision in heaven, Jesus always and continues to have the blessed vision (for this was never given to Him, but instead was always with Him through the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures of His person). He sees God the Father for us who are yet on this earth, who, in the state of sanctifying grace, with the indwelling of the Most Holy Trinity, are nevertheless burdened with the darkened intellect consequent to original sin. But we are with Jesus, one with His Mystical Body. He is the Head of the Body. He sees for the Body. He presents us to God the Father in Himself.
Yes, we are to be happy that Jesus is with the Father, that He sees the Father for us who are here yet a little while longer, that He accompanies us in this way as we strive in His grace to fulfill the Law and the Prophets in our own lives in Jesus, we being prepared in this way to be ever so eager to be prompt in obedience on that day and in that moment when our names will be called in all love so that we immediately fly, fly… fly!… on our way, upward, please God, to the heavens! Talk about joy in the Holy Spirit at that moment! Yikes!
Here’s the Church of the Ascension, perhaps the most desolate, barren, ugly church in the world. Weeds on the outside, trinkets being sold, walls surrounding it, it seems, not so much to protect it as to keep in from being seen. Islam took it after the crusaders were tossed out, and Muslims added the insult of sealing it up like a tomb and constructing a dome over the top of it so that, you know, no one would think that Jesus ascended into heaven from this spot. The crusaders purposely built it without a roof of any kind. But, instead, Islamic intolerance is what it is.
But here’s the deal: We’re supposed to evangelize Muslims as well! ;-)