Ascension of the Lord (C)
///Luke 24:46-53 | Ascension of Jesus
///Luke 24:46-53 | Ascension of Jesus
Homilies | Luke 24:46-53
Gospel commentary excerpts from a variety of sources.
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🔴 CATHOLIC PRAXIS
The Ascension is the climax of the Paschal Mystery
DR. BRANT PITRE – Many of us, when we think of Jesus offering sacrifice, we think just of Calvary, where he pours out his blood and his life on the cross. And to be sure, that is the supreme sacrifice. And we might also think of the Last Supper, in which he pours out his body and blood under the appearance of bread and wine. And that too is an essential part of the Paschal mystery. But what we tend to forget is that that earthly sacrifice that Jesus starts in the upper room and brings to a climax on Calvary, doesn’t stop with Calvary. But that in his resurrection from the dead and then his ascension into Heaven, Jesus takes his body, which is now crucified and risen (but still has the wounds), and he brings that human nature, that human body, that glorified body, into the heavenly sanctuary where he offers himself as a sacrifice to the Father, not in time, but in eternity; not on earth, but in Heaven.”
Background (v 45)
Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures
The church’s proclamation (Greek: kerygma)
DR. KIERAN O’MAHONY, OSA – Proclamation (kergyma) occurs only here in the gospel, but the verb to proclaim is more common (9 in Lk, and 8 in Acts). See Acts 2:28 and 1:8. Jerusalem is symbolically important in Luke-Acts: the ministry moves to the city and the mission sets out from it.
SERMON WRITER – Luke does not tell us which scriptures Jesus opens their minds to understand. There is no single Old Testament scripture that incorporates all the three major themes of verses 46-47—three themes that will form the core of the church’s kerygma:
(1) the suffering and death of the Messiah,
(2) his resurrection on the third day, and
(3) the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness to all nations.
Jesus’ Mandate (vv. 47b-48)
…to all the nations,
beginning from Jerusalem.
You are witnesses…
Disciples are to proclaim the Gospel
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – Universal power and kingship now belong to the risen Jesus; therefore, He confers upon the eleven ministers of His Church a universal mission to teach the Gospel message of salvation and baptize believers from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Notice that Jesus links repentance to the forgiveness of sins and the call to salvation. Without genuine repentance (the changing of one’s heart from rebellion to obedience towards God) there can be no forgiveness of sins (see, for example, Mt 3:2; Lk 1:77; 3:8; 5:32; 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19, 26; 5:31; 10:43; 13:38; 17:30; 26:20).
Direction of the proclamation
SERMON WRITER – Prior to Jesus, the Jews had assumed a centripetal model, with the world being drawn toward a central point, Jerusalem. After Jesus, the model reverses. The church begins its work in Jerusalem, but Jesus pushes it outward toward the nations of the world rather than pulling it inward, as before. Note the sequence: Jerusalem is the center. Judea is the province in which Jerusalem is located. Samaria is the adjoining province. And, finally, all the world will learn of Jesus and the salvation he came to offer.
Origin of the word martyr
SERMON WRITER – A witness (marturion) is a person who has seen something and can testify to the facts of the case.That was the case with these disciples, who had seen Jesus with their own eyes. They could testify to having seen Jesus after his resurrection (Lk 24:36-49). They could also testify to seeing him ascend into heaven (Lk 24:50-53). Now these disciples will testify to what they have seen, and some will be killed as a consequence.
Over time, fewer and fewer Christians saw the resurrected Jesus with their own eyes. However, they told the story, often at the cost of their own lives. As a result, this word marturion came to mean martyr—those who were killed because of their Christian witness.
Jesus’ Promise (v. 49)
Behold I am sending the promise of my Father upon you, but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high
The Greek word apostello
SERMON WRITER – Literally, “I am sending you what my Father promised.” We might expect the Father to send the gift, but instead Jesus sends it himself, acting as the Father’s mediator. The Greek word apostello (send forth) is of particular interest because of its relationship to apostolos (apostle). The apostles were those who were sent forth. But here Jesus uses the word apostello to speak of sending forth, not the apostles, but the fulfillment of God’s promise.
The baptism of the Holy Spirit
SERMON WRITER – Jesus does not reveal here what the Father has promised. In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke’s sequel to this Gospel, Jesus repeats this promise (Acts 1:5) and reveals that the gift is the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5). Luke further records Peter’s Pentecost Day sermon, in which Peter quotes the prophet Joel, “It will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Acts 2:17; see Joel 2:28). Peter assures his listeners that they have seen this prophecy fulfilled in the sound of a violent wind, the tongues of fire, and the glossolalia that they observed that day (Acts 2:1-13, 16)—manifestations of the Spirit.
The Greek word dunamin
SERMON WRITER – “But wait in the city of Jerusalem until you are clothed with power (Greek: dunamin—the word from which we get our word “dynamite”) from on high” (Lk24:49b). The purpose of their waiting is to be “clothed with power from on high,” a reference to the coming of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is leaving the disciples with a great responsibility, and they are not ready yet to tackle it. Earlier, Jesus sent out the disciples with “power and authority over all demons, and to cure diseases” and told them to “preach the Kingdom of God, and to heal the sick” (Lk 9:1-2). Now they are to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all nations (Lk 24:47). Only after they receive the gift of the Holy Spirit will they be able to do that effectively. Even after receiving the gift, they will struggle with the “to all nations” component of their commission. Not until Peter’s rooftop vision and his encounter with Cornelius (Acts 10) and his report to the church at Jerusalem (Acts 11) will the church really open its arms to Gentiles.
🔴 CATHOLIC PRAXIS
Novena: Disciples pray for nine days before coming of the Spirit
AGAPE BIBLE STUDY – The disciples obediently returned to the same Upper Room in Jerusalem where they held the Last Supper. In obedience to Jesus’s command, it was there that the Apostles, the men and women disciples, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus’s kinsmen all remained in prayer for nine days as the united 120 members of the first Christian community (Acts 1:13-15). Under the Old Covenant traditions, 120 was the minimum number required for forming a religious community.
They continued in prayer, waiting for the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Jewish Feast of Weeks/Pentecost on the tenth day after Jesus’s Ascension and fifty days from His Resurrection (Acts chapter 2). For this reason, a “novena,” a prayer with a single petition (in Latin “novem,” meaning “nine”), lasts for nine days.
Jesus’ Blessing (v. 50)
He led them out as far as Bethany,
raised his hands, and blessed them
SERMON WRITER – Bethany is located about two miles (3 km.) east of Jerusalem. It is the home of Mary, Martha, and Lazarus—and was where Jesus brought Lazarus back from the dead (John 12:1-8).
SERMON WRITER – This is a priestly benediction. Jesus imparts a blessing to his disciples as he prepares for his departure, following the model of Jacob’s blessing of his sons before his death (Genesis 49) and Moses’ blessing of the Israelites before his death (Deuteronomy 33).
🔴 CATHOLIC PRAXIS
Jesus’ Ascension (vv. 51-52)
He parted from them
and was taken up to heaven.
They did him homage
Familiar Old Testament model
SERMON WRITER – Jesus’ ascension follows a familiar Old Testament model:
- Genesis 5:24 tells of Enoch, who “walked with God, and he was not, for God took him”—an ascension-like account.
- 2 Kings 2 tells of Elijah’s being taken up into heaven within view of his disciple, Elisha. What is especially significant about that story is Elisha’s request to receive a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (v. 9), a request that God granted, resulting in Elisha performing great miracles.
The apostles move from fear to worship
SERMON WRITER – In the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts (also written by Luke), only God is worshiped—not idols, not people. The fact that these disciples worship Jesus signifies that they “have, at last, recognized Jesus for who he is” (Green, 862). Only a few verses earlier, they were frightened, thinking Jesus to be a ghost (v. 37). How quickly they move from fear to worship once Jesus shows them clearly who he is, what he expects of them, and how he will empower their ministry.
The apostles say goodbye
FR GEORGE SMIGA – On this Feast of the Ascension, the disciples in today’s gospel had to face a major goodbye. They had to say goodbye to the physical presence of Jesus. As Jesus ascended to the Father he promised the Spirit who would be with them always. But he would no longer physically be present to them as he was in his ministry or in his glorious body after the resurrection. Life was changing and the disciples had to let go of what they once had. But even as Jesus leaves them, he also points out to the disciples a way in which they can say goodbye well. He points it out not only for their benefit but for ours. Jesus asks them to remember the things of the past, his death and resurrection, and the proclamation of the Good News. He says to them, “You will be witness to all these things.” Now at first it might seem strange or counter-intuitive to point to the past as a way of dealing with Jesus’ departure. After all, remembering the past is remembering the very things we no longer have. But by asking them to witness to the past Jesus is actually showing the disciples an effective way of saying goodbye well.
🔴 CATHOLIC PRAXIS
Because of the Ascension we have access to Heaven
FR. VINCENT HAWKSWELL – “Left to its own natural powers, humanity does not have access to the Father’s house, to God’s life and happiness,” the Catechism says. “No one has gone up to heaven,” Jesus told Nicodemus, “except the one who came down from there” – himself. Now we have this access. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself,” he said. “We too shall go where he, our head and our source, has preceded us,” says the Catechism. In the Creed, then, we confidently proclaim our belief in “life everlasting.” God will “divinize” us, the Catechism says – make us divine, like himself – and will welcome us into the bliss of the Holy Trinity’s life and love. The Catechism says that God became man so that we might share in “the divine nature,” as we pray in the Offertory at Mass; so that God, “made man, might make men gods”; “so that we might become God.” These are not overstatements.
45. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures,
46. And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
47. And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
48. And ye are witnesses of these things.
49. And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
BEDE. After having presented Himself to be seen with the eye, and handled with hands, and having brought to their minds the Scriptures of the law, He next opened their understanding that they should understand what was read.
THEOPHYLACT. Otherwise, how would their agitated and perplexed minds have learnt the mystery of Christ. But He taught them by His words; for it follows, And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, that is, by the wood of the Cross.
BEDE. But Christ would have lost the fruit of His Passion had He not been the Truth of the resurrection, therefore it is said, And to rise from the dead. He then after having commended to them the truth of the body, commends the unity of the Church, adding, And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations.
EUSEBIUS. For it was said, Ask of me, and I will give thee the heathen for thine inheritance. (Ps. 2:8.) But it was necessary that those who were converted from the Gentiles should be purged from a certain stain and defilement through His virtue, being as it were corrupted by the evil of the worship of devils, and as lately converted from an abominable and unchaste life. And therefore He says that it behoves that first repentance should be preached, but next, remission of sins, to all nations. For to those who first shewed repentance for their sins, by His saving grace He granted pardon of their transgression, for whom also He endured death.
THEOPHYLACT. But herein that He says, Repentance and remission of sins, He also makes mention of baptism, in which by the putting off of our past sins there follows pardon of iniquity. But how must we understand baptism to be performed in the name of Christ alone, whereas in another place He commands it to be in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost. First indeed we say that it is not meant that baptism is administered in Christ’s name alone, but that a person is baptized with the baptism of Christ, that is, spiritually, not Judaically, nor with the baptism, wherewith John baptized unto repentance only, but unto the participation of the blessed Spirit; as Christ also when baptized in Jordan manifested the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. Moreover you must understand baptism in Christ’s name to be in His death. For as He after death rose again on the third day, so we also are three times dipped in the water, and fitly brought out again, receiving thereby an earnest of the immortality of the Spirit. This name of Christ also contains in itself both the Father as the Anointer, and the Spirit as the Anointing, and the Son as the Anointed, that is, in His human nature. But it was fitting that the race of man should no longer be divided into Jews and Gentiles, and therefore that He might unite all in one, He commanded that their preaching should begin at Jerusalem, but be finished with the Gentiles. Hence it follows, Beginning at Jerusalem. (Rom. 3:2, Rom. 9:4.)
BEDE. Not only because to them were entrusted the oracles of God, and theirs is the adoption and the glory, but also that the Gentiles entangled in various errors might by this sign of Divine mercy be chiefly invited to come to hope, seeing that to them even who crucified the Son of God pardon is granted.
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. i. in Act.) Further, lest any should say that abandoning their acquaintances they went to shew themselves, (or as it were to vaunt themselves with a kind of pomp,) to strangers, therefore first among the very murderers themselves are the signs of the resurrection displayed, in that very city wherein the frantic outrage burst forth. For where the crucifiers themselves are seen to believe, there the resurrection is most of all demonstrated.
EUSEBIUS. But if those things which Christ foretold are already receiving their accomplishment, and His word is perceived by a seeing faith to be living and effectual throughout the whole world; it is time for men not to be unbelieving towards Him who uttered that word. For it is necessary that He should live a divine life, whose living works are shewn to be agreeable to His words; and these indeed have been fulfilled by the ministry of the Apostles. Hence He adds, But ye are witnesses of these things, &c. that is, of My death and resurrection.
THEOPHYLACT. Afterwards, lest they should be troubled at the thought, How shall we private individuals give our testimony to the Jews and Gentiles who have killed Thee? He subjoins, And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you, &c. which indeed He had promised by the mouth of the prophet Joel, I will pour my Spirit upon all flesh. (Joel 2:18.)
CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. i. in Act.) But as a general does not permit his soldiers who are about to meet a large number, to go out until they are armed, so also the Lord does not permit His disciples to go forth to the conflict before the descent of the Spirit. And hence He adds, But tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.
THEOPHYLACT. That is, not with human but heavenly power. He said not, until ye receive, but be endued with, shewing the entire protection of the spiritual armour.
BEDE. But concerning the power, that is, the Holy Spirit, the Angel also says to Mary, And the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. (Luke 1:35.) And the Lord Himself says elsewhere, For I know that virtue is gone out of me. (Luke 8:45.)
CHRYSOSTOM. (ut sup.) But why did not the Spirit come while Christ was present, or immediately on His departure? Because it was fitting that they should become desirous of grace, and then at length receive it. For we are then most awakened towards God, when difficulties press upon us. It was necessary in the mean time that our nature should appear in Heaven, and the covenants be completed, and that then the Spirit should come, and pure joys be experienced. Mark also what a necessity He imposed upon them of being at Jerusalem, in that He promised that the Spirit should there be given them. For lest they should again flee away after His resurrection, by this expectation, as it were a chain, He kept them all there together. But He says, until ye be endued from on high. He did not express the time when, in order that they may be constantly watchful. But why then marvel that He does not reveal to us our last day, when He would not even make known this day which was close at hand.
GREGORY. (de Past. 3. c. 25.) They then are to be warned, whom age or imperfection hinders from the office of preaching, and yet rashness impels, lest while they hastily arrogate to themselves so responsible an office, they should cut themselves off from the way of future amendment. For the Truth Itself which could suddenly strengthen those whom it wished, in order to give an example to those that follow, that imperfect men should not presume to preach, after having fully instructed the disciples concerning the virtue of preaching, commanded them to abide in the city, until they were endued with power from on high. For we abide in a city, when we keep ourselves close within the gates of our minds, lest by speaking we wander beyond them; that when we are perfectly endued with divine power, we may then as it were go out beyond ourselves to instruct others.
AMBROSE. But let us consider how according to John they received the Holy Spirit, while here they are ordered to stay in the city until they should be endued with power from on high. Either He breathed the Holy Spirit into the eleven, as being more perfect, and promised to give it to the rest afterwards; or to the same persons He breathed in the one place, He promised in the other. Nor does there seem to be any contradiction, since there are diversities of graces. Therefore one operation He breathed into them there, another He promised here. For there the grace of remitting sins was given, which seems to be more confined, and therefore is breathed into them by Christ, that you may believe the Holy Spirit to be of Christ, to be from God. For God alone forgiveth sins. But Luke describes the pouring forth of the grace of speaking with tongues.
CHRYSOSTOM. Or He said, Receive ye the Holy Spirit, that He might make them fit to receive it, or indicated as present that which was to come.
AUGUSTINE. (de Trin. 15. c. 26.) Or the Lord after His resurrection gave the Holy Spirit twice, once on earth, because of the love of our neighbour, and again from heaven, because of the love of God.
50. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
51. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
52. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy:
53. And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen.
BEDE. Having omitted all those things which may have taken place during forty-three days between our Lord and His disciples, St. Luke silently joins to the first day of the resurrection, the last day when He ascended into heaven, saying, And he led them out as far as to Bethany. First, indeed, because of the name of the place, which signifies “the house of obedience.” For He who descended because of the disobedience of the wicked, ascended because of the obedience of the converted. Next, because of the situation of the same village, which is said to be placed on the side of the mount of Olives; because He has placed the foundations, as it were, of the house of the obedient Church, of faith, hope, and love, in the side of that highest mountain, namely, Christ. But He blessed them to whom He had delivered the precepts of His teaching; hence it follows, And he lifted up his hands, and blessed them.
THEOPHYLACT. Perhaps pouring into them a power of preservation, until the coming of the Spirit; and perhaps instructing them, that as often as we go away, we should commend to God by our blessing those who are placed under us.
ORIGEN. But that He blessed them with uplifted hands, signifies that it becomes him who blesses any one to be furnished with various works and labours in behalf of others. For in this way are the hands raised up on high.
CHRYSOSTOM. But observe, that the Lord submits to our sight the promised rewards. He had promised the resurrection of the body; He rose from the dead, and conferred with His disciples for forty days. It is also promised that we shall be caught up in the clouds through the air; this also He made manifest by His works. For it follows, And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted, &c.
THEOPHYLACT. And Elias indeed was seen, as it were, to be taken up into heaven, but the Saviour, the forerunner of all, Himself ascended into heaven to appear in the Divine sight in His sacred body; and already is our nature honoured in Christ by a certain Angelic power.
CHRYSOSTOM. But you will say, How does this concern me? Because thou also shalt be taken up in like manner into the clouds. For thy body is of like nature to His body, therefore shall thy body be so light, that it can pass through the air. For as is the head, so also is the body; as the beginning, so also the end. See then how thou art honoured by this beginning. Man was the lowest part of the rational creation, but the feet have been made the head, being lifted up aloft into the royal throne in their head.
BEDE. When the Lord ascended into heaven, the disciples adoring Him where His feet lately stood, immediately return to Jerusalem, where they were commanded to wait for the promise of the Father; for it follows, And they worshipped him, and returned, &c. Great indeed was their joy, for they rejoice that their God and Lord after the triumph of His resurrection had also passed into the heavens.
GREEK EXPOSITOR. And they were watching, praying, and fasting, because indeed they were not living in their own homes, but were abiding in the temple, expecting the grace from on high; among other things also learning from the very place piety and honesty. Hence it is said, And were continually in the temple.
THEOPHYLACT. The Spirit had not yet come, and yet their conversation is spiritual. Before they were shut up; now they stand in the midst of the chief priests; distracted by no worldly object, but despising all things, they praise God continually; as it follows, Praising and blessing God.
BEDE. And observe that among the four beasts in heaven, (Ezek. 1:10. Rev. 4:7) Luke is said to be represented by the calf, for by the sacrifice of a calf, they were ordered to be initiated who were chosen to the priesthood; (Exod. 29:1.) and Luke has undertaken to explain more fully than the rest the priesthood of Christ; and his Gospel, which he commenced with the ministry of the temple in the priesthood of Zacharias, he has finished with the devotion in the temple. And he has placed the Apostles there, about to be the ministers of a new priesthood, not in the blood of sacrifices, but in the praises of God and in blessing, that in the place of prayer and amidst the praises of their devotion, they might wait with prepared hearts for the promise of the Spirit.
THEOPHYLACT. Whom imitating, may we ever dwell in a holy life, praising and blessing God; to Whom be glory and blessing and power, for ever and ever. Amen.
SOURCE: ECATHOLIC 2000 Commentary in public domain.