“Men of Galilee, why gaze in wonder at the heavens?” (Acts 1:11)

by Shiu Lan
The Ascension of the Lord

Acts 1:1-11

Ephesians 1:17-23

Mark 16:15-20

“Men of Galilee, why gaze in wonder at the heavens? This Jesus whom you saw ascending into heaven will return as you saw him go”, said two angels appearing as “men in white robes” after Jesus was “lifted up and a cloud took him out of their sight” 40 days after His Resurrection (Acts 1:9-11). The account of the Ascension of our Lord marks the end of the Gospel of Mark and the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles which contains 30 years of Christian history beginning with the Ascension to Paul’s imprisonment in Rome (Ref. Ignatius Catholic Study Bible).

Before His Ascension, Jesus’ mandate to the Apostles is to “be [His] witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). The Apostles faithfully carried out their mission as recorded in the last verse of the gospel, “They went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it” (Mk 16:20). Our church today is indeed the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic church” that Jesus commissions (Nicene Creed).

The time of the Church begins with the Ascension of our Lord that signifies his participation, in his humanity, in God's power and authority. The redemption is the source of the authority that Christ, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, exercises over the Church. “God puts his power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand … far above all rule and authority and power and dominion … not only in this age but also in the age to come”, “And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the Church, which is his body” (Eph 1:20-22, Ref ICSB, CCC 668-9).

Since the Ascension, God's plan has entered into fulfillment. We are now in the final age of the world, the renewal of which is underway.  Jesus confirms the coming of the messianic kingdom to bring humanity justice, love and peace but conceals the precise timing as determined by the Father, “It is not for [us] to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority" (Acts 1:7, Ref ICSB, CCC 672). The present time is “the time of the Spirit and of witness, but also a time still marked by ‘distress’ and the trial of evil which does not spare the Church and ushers in the struggles of the last days”, it is a time of waiting and watching for the second coming of Christ in glory (CCC 672).

The second reading is St. Paul’s prayer for the Ephesians. One of the things he prays for them (and for us as well) is that “with the eyes of [their] heart enlightened, [they] may know what is the hope to which Christ has called [them]” (Eph 1:18).  We are the faithful who believe that “He will come again to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end”. As we endure the inevitable challenges, struggles and trials of the world, may we remain in joyful hope and “look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come” (Nicene Creed). Amen.