Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
The first reading this Sunday is taken from the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. It shows the literary unity that exists between this book and the Gospel according to St. Luke. It also highlights the unity that exists between God and his Church, as explained by Pope Francis in his catechesis last Wednesday which began a series on the Acts of the Apostles.
“This book from the Bible, written by St. Luke the Evangelist, tells us of a journey, one journey, which journey? The journey of the Gospel in the world. It shows the wonderful unity that exists between the word of God and the Holy Spirit. It begins the time of evangelization. The main characters in the book of Acts are really an effective and living “couple”: Word and Spirit.
God “sends his commands to the earth” and “his words runs swiftly” says the Psalm. The word of God runs, is dynamic, waters the field where it falls. What is its strength? St. Luke tells us that human words become effective, not because of rhetoric, which is the art of beautiful speech, but because of the Holy Spirit, which is the dynamis of God, the dynamic of God, its force, who has the power to purify the word, to make it life giving. In the Bible, for example, there are stories, human words, yet, what is the difference between the Bible and a history book? The words of the Bible are from the Holy Spirit, which gives strength, a strong force that helps us so that the word becomes a seed of holiness, a seed of life, that it may be efficacious. When the Spirit joins the human word, it becomes dynamic, like dynamite, capable of enlightening hearts and overcoming patterns of resistance and walls of division, opening up new roads and expanding the limits of the people of God…
The one who makes our frail human word incisive, vibrant with sound is the Holy Spirit. Our word is capable of telling lies and escaping responsibilities, but the Spirit through which the Son of God was begotten, the Spirit who anointed Him and sustained Him in his mission, the Spirit through whom He chose His apostles, guaranteed perseverance and fecundity to their proclamation, as it guarantees today our own proclamation.
The Gospel ends with the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. It is there that the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles begins from the superabundance of life of the Risen One passed on to His Church. St. Luke tells us that Jesus “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.” The Risen One, Jesus Risen has very human gestures. He shares a meal with His own and invites them to wait confidently for the fulfilment of the promise of the Father: “You will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.”
In fact, baptism in the Holy Spirit is the experience that enables us to enter into personal communion with God and participate in his universal salvific will, acquiring the gift of parresia, namely, the courage, the ability to proclaim words as “children of God”, no just as men but as children of God, a word that is clear, free, effective, filled with love for Christ and for our brothers and sisters.
Therefore, we ought not to fight to merit or earn the gift of God. Everything is given freely in its own good time. The Lord gives everything freely. Salvation is not purchased, it is not paid, it is a free gift. In the face of anxiety to know beforehand the moment when the events announced will come to pass, Jesus responds to His own: “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.”
The Risen One invites his disciples to live the present without anxiety, but to make an alliance with time, to learn to wait the outcome of a sacred history which has not been interrupted but continues to move forward, always going forward; to know how to wait the “steps” of God, Lord of time and space. The Risen One invites his people to wait for the Father to dynamize their hearts with His Spirit, not to “fabricate” a mission by themselves, so that they can get involved with a missionary witness capable to spread from Jerusalem to Samaria and beyond the borders of Israel to reach the peripheries of the world.
The apostles live this wait together, they live it as the family of the Lord, in the upper room or cenacle, whose walls are still witnesses of the gift with which Jesus gave himself to his own in the Eucharist. How do they wait for this strength, the dynamis of God? Praying with perseverance, as if there were not many but one. Praying in unity and with perseverance. In fact, it is through prayer that one overcomes isolation, temptation and suspicion, opening one’s heart to communion. The presence of women and of Mary, the mother of Jesus, intensifies this experience: they first learned from the Teacher to bear witness of fidelity to love and the force of communion that overcomes all fear.
We too ask the Lord for the patience to wait for his steps, so as not to desire to “fabricate” his work but remain docile, praying, invoking the Spirit and cultivating the art of ecclesial communion.”
Fr. Roberto M. Cid