The Ascension of the Lord

ACTS 1:1-11

In the first book, Theophilus, I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught until the day he was taken up, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. He presented himself alive to them by many proofs after he had suffered, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While meeting with the them, he enjoined them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for "the promise of the Father about which you have heard me speak; for John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit." When they had gathered together they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" He answered them, "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."

Ephesians 1:17-23

Brothers and sisters: May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, give you a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of him. May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones, and what is the surpassing greatness of his power for us who believe, in accord with the exercise of his great might, which he worked in Christ, raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens, far above every principality, authority, power, and dominion, and every name that is named not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way.

Matthew 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

One of my all-time favourite movies is the 1999 production of “The Matrix”. Who can forget those cool shades and costumes, the iconic slow-mo fight scenes, the innovative special effects, and so much more? Though this story debuted over 20 years ago, it is all the more relevant to today’s 21st Century audiences. The story is about the awakening of the protagonist, Thomas Anderson, a.k.a. Neo, who works as a computer programmer by day and a hacker by night. He sits by his computer, day and night, looking for answers but in vain. His daily life is filled with anxieties and is devoid of meaning. What he doesn’t know initially is that his whole life; his very existence, is an illusion fabricated and controlled by the “Matrix”. With the help of the underground rebels led by Morpheus, Neo becomes “unplugged” despite his resistance and doubts. Liberated, his eyes are opened for the first time to the true reality beyond the Matrix’s domain. Neo finally knows who he is and understands what he is supposed to do.

Under the shadows of Covid-19, many of us, who are living in what seems like a dystopian reality not unlike Neo’s world, experience various degrees of anxiety. During these uncertain times, we are desperate for certainties – When will this be over? When can I visit my loved ones in care facilities? Will I still have a job when this is over? What does the second or third wave of the virus look like and when is it coming? This Sunday’s readings can be held up as a mirror to our current predicament. In the first reading, the Apostles seek certainties from Jesus during tumultuous times, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel”, to which Jesus replies, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority” (Acts 1:6-7). In this precise moment, Jesus redirects the Apostles’ gaze away from the narrowness of their human vision to the infinity of God’s vision. The Apostles are asking the wrong question! Jesus, instead, offers them something infinitely better; he offers them hope and the assurance that God will take care of everything. Jesus desires them to “unplug” themselves from their worldly preoccupations so that they may be free to receive the Holy Spirit and be empowered to become “witnesses” (Acts 1:8). Before Jesus returns to His Father, He commissions his “eleven disciples” to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19-20).

How in the world are the disciples, and all of us, going to fulfill this parting commandment of Jesus? St. Paul reminds us to follow the “wisdom and revelation” of the Holy Spirit so that “with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which [Christ] has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance … what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power” (Eph 1:17-19). When we see with our new “eyes” of our “enlightened” hearts, our anxieties and concerns are suddenly dissipated and, like Neo, our eyes are opened to the true reality, that is the vision of God’s kingdom.

The disciples, indeed, are asked to do the impossible during tumultuous times: political and social unrest, religious persecution. Similarly, each one of us is asked to do the impossible: to bring light to darkness; to bring joy and hope to the hopeless; to light a fire to cold hearts. The Good News is that Jesus, our Good Shepherd, does not leave us orphaned. Jesus says, “remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). This is a tender reminder that Jesus remembers us first; we are always on his mind and in his heart! With this reassuring thought, we are empowered to go forth and “make disciples of all nations” (Mt 28:19)!

May we always remember and celebrate such great gift!

We remember how you loved us to your death,
And still we celebrate, for you are with us here;
And we believe that we will see you when you come,
In your glory, Lord, we remember, we celebrate, we believe.
(Marty Haugen, “We Remember”, 1991)

Posted: May 24, 2020

Susanna Mak

Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.

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