Big changes were about to happen in the world. The Apostles had already experienced Jesus in his Resurrection. They had seen him in the flesh for forty days since he defeated death. However, their question to Jesus even after these extraordinary events revealed their earthly state of mind.
“Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”
They knew the prophecies of the Messiah. The believed he was the Messiah. However, they predominantly believed two things.
- First, that the Messiah would rule on Earth, as a political figure to restore a political kingdom on earth.
- Second, that Jesus was going to continue to be their leader. They were going to follow him. But he would do the “heavy lifting” to confront the world and sin.
What they were not ready for was the beginning of their own leadership on earth. They would be the ones to confront the world and sin. If Jesus did not return to the Father, then they would never have assumed their leadership positions in the Church. The Ascension of Jesus was essential for the Church Jesus had established. The Apostles had to learn to stand on their own and take the Kingdom of God out into the entire world.
Moments before Jesus ascended into heaven, he prepared his apostles to receive the Holy Spirit, in the Pentecost, in just a few days. He told them,
“… 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.”
Jesus would be with them always, to the end of the world, but he would not be giving day-to-day guidance as they had experienced.
This was the last time they would see him on earth. Now, he tells them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the gospel to every creature.”
If these eleven men had stayed in Jerusalem or Galilee, nothing would have happened. We would not have a Church. They couldn’t just stand around. They were sent out to the world to preach, teach, evangelize and build up the Church, to build up the Body of Christ. Jesus was in the Church, in the Sacraments. The Church became Jesus Christ’s visible presence on earth, founded upon the Apostles.
The Ascension was a moment of transition, and even a moment of tension. They were not in “Catechism” classes any more. Now they were launched, like a ship is launched out into the rough seas. This is how the Church was born. The Holy Spirit would come to guide them. The Church’s mission had truly begun.
And so are we sent forth. Just as the eleven Apostles couldn’t just stand around and wait, neither can we. Every generation must go forth. We are the Church. The Holy Spirit has been given to us.
You are living the Sacramental life of the Church. Live the Gospel. Proclaim the Gospel. Be the Gospel, in your actions and words. Don’t miss Mass. Receive Holy Communion every chance you get. And, when you fall off the bicycle, get back into the Confessional, so you can get back on the road to the Kingdom of God.