Today we’re celebrating Christ going home to Heaven. His mission on earth is accomplished. The angels are cheering at his return. The souls that were waiting for many years, since the beginning of human history, for Jesus to come and re-open the way to Heaven are celebrating too from their new and eternal home.
We are also thanking Jesus for the first thing that he did, and now continues to do, as soon as he got back to Heaven. Jesus is now at His Father’s right hand forever, asking him to help us get to Heaven too, and everyone we love. Like Jesus promised at the Last Supper, he and the Father are sending the Holy Spirit to help us get home by bringing us grace. Christ has ascended and now the disciples are waiting for the “whoosh” of the Holy Spirit.
In today’s First Reading the disciples are still confused and have doubts, even though they’ve seen that Jesus has risen from the dead. They were expecting, like all of Israel expected, one big whoosh right away: they thought the Kingdom of Heaven was coming right now. They were waiting for one last bang and for everyone to be in Heaven and evil to be ended. They ask Jesus when it’s going to happen. Jesus answers: wait for the Holy Spirit to come, and they still didn’t get it, which is why the angels have to tell them to move on. When Jesus tells them it’s not for them to know the times or seasons, he’s teaching them what the whoosh of the Holy Spirit is like: unexpected and big. The disciples thought there’d be one big whoosh and everyone would be in Heaven. Jesus is telling them to hold on to and be ready for the whoosh.
In today’s Second Reading St. Paul prays that we too receive this “whoosh” of the Holy Spirit when Christ arrives home. This “whoosh” will bestow on us wisdom and revelation, not just on the level of knowledge, but in our hearts as well. Paul describes well where Our Lord is headed today: to his Father’s right hand, where he’ll be put in charge of all things and be above all other powers. It also says he’s being given to us, the Church, as head over all things.
In today’s Gospel Our Lord prepares the disciples, and us, for Pentecost. He may be ascending soon, but the Holy Spirit is coming in force. In the Gospel today, and for the rest of this week [or ten days], we’re waiting for that first big whoosh of the Holy Spirit that came to the Church on Pentecost, which is what we’ll celebrate on [Pentecost] Sunday. Jesus tells the Apostles to go out and baptize the whole world. When Jesus was baptized, the Holy Spirit whooshed down on him. Whenever we receive the sacraments, whenever we pray, and whenever we love each other the same thing happens to us. The Holy Spirit also fulfills the promise Jesus made in the Gospel today: by the power of the Holy Spirit the bread and wine today in Mass will become the Eucharist – the Body and Blood of Christ – and Jesus will stay with us in the Eucharist “until the end of the age” when he will return with the last big whoosh that will bring us all home to Heaven.
The two men dressed in white in today’s First Reading are asking us the same thing today that they asked the Apostles, “why are you standing there?” Waiting for the whoosh doesn’t mean standing around and doing nothing. The Apostles were active as they waited. They didn’t know when the moment of grace, the whoosh, would come, but they knew they had to continue to do Our Lord’s will. He promised them power when the Holy Spirit came, but they were already at work. Sometimes we don’t want to do anything until we perceive a whoosh: a boost of grace, some insight into Our Lord’s will. We must remember that, in faith, we know the floodgate of grace is open and we are being soaked in it. He’s given us the sacraments, the Scriptures, and the help of the Church. We have plenty of grace to get to work.
Readings: Acts 1:1–11; Psalm 47:2–3, 6–9; Ephesians 1:17–23; Matthew 28:16–20.