REFLECTION: You are to be my witnesses

Bishop Thomas Gumbletonby Bishop Thomas Gumbleton
Pax Christi USA Teacher of Peace

I really did read those letters from all of you and I found them very inspiring because you seem to understand what’s really important about the Sacrament of Confirmation, that you are committing yourself now for the rest of your life to continue to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, baptized, confirmed, strengthened regularly by the Holy Eucharist and also by your own daily prayer. Each of you seem to find that an important thing to include, that you have come to know Jesus better through your preparation for the Sacrament of Confirmation. I do have that sense that you’re truly ready, but it’s important that we reflect a little bit further on the Scriptures and on this feast that we’re celebrating, the Ascension of Jesus into heaven.

pskovpecheryascensioniconThe first thing that I think is important about the feast day and what we are being taught about the feast day is not exactly when the Ascension happened. It’s important for all of us to realize that the Gospels are not a history book. They don’t follow the life of Jesus like we might do if we were writing history, or even if we were writing a biography of Jesus. But the Gospels do, and the other New Testament Scriptures like the letters of Paul and so on, teach us about Jesus — who he is, why he came, what he did. They don’t try to give us a chronological teaching about his life. In fact, if you listen to the Gospels carefully, you’ll discover, when you listen to the Gospel of John about Easter Sunday, when Jesus came back to the disciples Easter Sunday night, it was then that he breathed on them, gave them the gift of the Holy Spirit, and then left them for good.

It wasn’t 40 days later. Luke puts that into his Acts of the Apostles because in the early days of the church, the Christians thought Jesus was going to come back very quickly and that he would restore the reign of God in its fullness; but it wasn’t going to happen. By the time Luke wrote the Acts of the Apostles in the 80s, it was pretty clear that Jesus wasn’t coming back anytime soon. And so, Luke puts into the Acts of the Apostles the story about how they gathered together outside of Jerusalem and then he’s lifted up to heaven. The angels come down and tell the disciples, “What are you looking up there for? He’s gone.” That wasn’t how it really happened, but the important thing is what we learn in one of the letters of St. Paul about what this meant.

What happened is described in this letter of Paul to the church at Ephesus. He tells us, “God revealed God’s almighty power in Jesus when he raised Jesus from the dead and had him sit at his right hand in heaven, far above all rule, power, authority, dominion, or any other super natural force that could be named, not only in this world, but in the world to come. Thus God has put all things under the feet of Christ, set him above all things as head of the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.”...

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