St. Luke wrote both the first reading from Acts and the Gospel reading. Luke was the only Gospel writer who was not a Hebrew or a Jew. He was probably a Greek-speaking Christian from the city of Antioch in Syria. St. Paul referred to him as a physician, so he was well educated, and wrote and spoke excellent Greek. Some have called Antioch the “Cradle of Christianity”, since it was from Antioch that St. Paul and St. Barnabas were sent out by the Church there to evangelize the gentiles. Antioch was a Greek/Roman gentile city. Luke became a companion of St. Paul in his mission travels.
As the author of both Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel of Luke, he probably wrote over 25% of the New Testament. His sources probably included, in addition to St. Paul, St. Barnabas, St. Mark, St. Peter and the other Apostles. He may have met the Virgin Mary, as well. Luke probably traveled to Jerusalem, and we know that Peter and other Apostles traveled to Antioch. Antioch was about 500 miles from Jerusalem by land, but travel was more likely and faster by sea along the coast of Palestine.
In today’s reading we hear the end of Luke’s Gospel, recounting Jesus’ Ascension to Heaven near Jerusalem.
Then he led them out as far as Bethany,
raised his hands, and blessed them.
As he blessed them he parted from them
and was taken up to heaven.
In the first reading from Acts of the Apostles, we hear Luke referring back to his book of the Gospel, and his first account of the Ascension saying,
In the first book, Theophilus,
I dealt with all that Jesus did and taught
until the day he was taken up, …..
We don’t know who Theophilus was, but the connection between Luke’s two books is the Ascension of Jesus to the Father.
Many people, including Catholics tend to see Jesus’ ministry only in terms of his birth, his miraculous ministry, Crucifixion and Resurrection. However, that understanding is lacking the fuller picture of Jesus’ life and ministry. The story is not complete without the Ascension. After Jesus’ Resurrection, Jesus ascended back to his Father, and sits at the right hand of God. Then Jesus and His Father sent the Holy Spirit to the Church. We celebrate that event, the coming of the Holy Spirit, next weekend, at Pentecost.
For now, let’s contemplate that there is a Human Being in the Holy Trinity. Beside the Father and the Holy Spirit is the Son of God who took on human flesh from his mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. Both Jesus and Mary ascended body and soul into heaven, affirming our faith in the Resurrection of our bodies and souls, as taught by the apostles and the Church. We believe in the Holy Trinity. We are “Trinitarians” because Jesus ascended to the Father, and we have a brother in flesh and bone in God, in the Holy Trinity. It is the Ascension of Jesus that we celebrate today, the final act of Jesus before reuniting with the Father and the Holy Spirit in Heaven.
Our Church bears witness to Jesus’ Ascension. The Ascension gives Hope to us, because he said, “Follow me” … all the way to Heaven and eternal life.