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Sunday:       Ascension of the Lord.
Date:         May 28, 2017.
Year:         A
The readings: [Acts 1:1-11; Eph. 1:17-23; Mt. 28:16-20]
The message:  He was lifted up.
Prepared by:  Catholic Doors Ministry
Total words:  2090


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** The readings follow the sermon.

"He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight." [Acts 1:9] Who was lifted up? Why were the disciples so fascinated with the Ascension of the Lord Jesus? What perception of the Lord did the disciples enjoy?

As we all know, in the beginning, before all things were created, God was formless in His existence. The best way to describe His existence is to say that God was "present." This nature of God echoes the Words of Yahweh and Jesus who both claimed to be, "I am." [Ex. 3:14; Jn. 8:58, 18:5; Rev. 1:8, 22:13] "I am" means "I am present; I am here!" In the case of God the Father, it can also mean, "While you may not see Me, I am here. I am present."

Formless in nature prior to all creations, God could not have had a physical body since the physical world did not exist as of yet. Nor could He have had a spiritual body since the spiritual world had not been created as of yet. So how could God manifest Himself to the physical world after creation? It was by His incarnation through Jesus Christ.

So what was the origin of the Lord Jesus? The Holy Bible informs us that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." [Jn. 1:1] Jesus was the Word of God who had been granted to have life in Himself. The Gospel of John tells us, "As the Father has life in Himself, He has granted the Son (the Word) to have life in Himself." [Jn. 5:26]

"In Jesus (Him) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell bodily." [Col. 1:19,2:9] "Though 'the Word dwelt among us', and it is also said that in Christ dwelt 'all the fullness of the godhead bodily', we understand that, having become flesh, the manner of his (the Heavenly Father) indwelling is not defined in the same way as he is said to dwell among the saints, he was united by nature and not turned into flesh and he made his indwelling in such a way as we may say that the soul of man does in his own body." [The Council Of Ephesus, 431 A.D.; Third letter of Cyril to Nestorius.]

While the indwelling of God in the saints is of a spiritual nature, the unity of God the Father in Jesus was as the soul of man is to man. As Jesus said, "Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his work. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me..." [Jn. 14:9- 11]

In similar words, I can say, "Whoever has seen me has seen my human soul." or "Whoever has seen you has seen your human soul." No one can see a human soul because it is formless. It is by seeing the physical form that the spiritual is revealed. By seeing Jesus, one comes to know the Father who's Divine Soul was united in Jesus.

While the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three separate Divine Presences, they are one God. The mystery of the Trinity is not beyond the reach of our human perception when we consider our knowledge and understanding of the gift of bilocation. St. Paul affirmed our capability of knowing the nature of God when he stated, "Ever since the creation of the world His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things He has made. So they are without excuse." [Rom. 1:20]

As we know, the saints who experienced the gift of bilocation, while they were one person, their simultaneous bilocated presences manifested themselves in two separate locations, this proving beyond any doubt that they were two, and yet one. Equally, the Father and the Son who are One, are also two and can manifest themselves simultaneously in different locations in Heaven or on earth. The Divine nature of God, although invisible as it is, can be understood and seen through the creation of man that He has made. [Rom. 1:20]

So again, I ask, "Who was lifted up? Why were the disciples so fascinated with the Ascension of the Lord Jesus? What perception of the Lord did the disciples enjoy?" In Jesus, the disciples perceived the incarnation of God. In awe, they perceived the three Divine Presences of the eternal God, the Alpha and the Omega. And naturally, in His resurrected and glorious body, in the Ascension, the disciples were witnessing the departure of the Lord from this world, He whom they had come to love dearly.

With this inner perception of the nature of God, it now becomes easier to understand today's readings from the Scriptures.

The First Reading from the Acts of the Apostles [Acts 1:1-11] began by introducing us to the first Book of the New Testament. In the first verse, we heard that Luke had written another book, that being the Gospel according to Luke. Biblical history tells us that originally, the two books, the Gospel according to Luke and the Acts of the Apostles, were joined together at Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:6. When the Catholic Church arranged the NT Canon books, the volume of Luke was divided in two books, in the manner in which we presently enjoy them.

Proceeding with verse 1:4 of the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus ordered His disciples not to leave Jerusalem until such time as they had received the promise of the Holy Spirit. What was this promise? It was the promise of the reception of the Holy Spirit, this promise being manifested today in the Catholic Church through the Sacrament of Confirmation.

Why were the disciples commanded to stay in Jerusalem? It is because Jerusalem was chosen by God as the City in which the spiritual Kingdom of God was to be established. Parallel to the Catholic Church, the visible Body of Christ, having its seat at the Vatican, the invisible Body of Christ has its seat in Jerusalem where Christ the King sits on His Throne.

The reception of the Holy Spirit was very important because He had been chosen and sent by the Father and the Son to sustain Christianity in a new era of sacred history, the era of the Church and its mission. From Jerusalem, the geographical center of sacred history, was to begin the apostolic mission of the apostles who had been prepared by Jesus in the three years prior to His Ascension into Heaven.

Today's Reading from the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 28:16-20] involved the great commission that was given to the Apostles by Jesus. Prior to granting someone the authority to do something, it is necessary to establish that one has the authority to give such an authority. Jesus began by stating that He enjoyed such an authority. "All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me." [Mt. 28:18]

What authority are we talking about here? To answer that, it is necessary to refer to today's Second Reading from the Letter of Paul to the Ephesians. [Eph. 1:17-23] "God put (the working of His) power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come." [Eph. 1:20-21] The authority of Jesus is above all rule and authority and power and dominion. The aforementioned are not world rulers or governments. They are references to angelic spirits, some good, others evil, all the governing bodies that were considered to have control over human events and its destiny.

Through death on the Cross, followed by His glorious Resurrection, Christ conquered those governing bodies. Now, none of them possess any power over men. None of them can stand in the way of God's progressive Divine Plan of salvation for mankind in the present age of grace that shall be fulfilled through Christ.

Then we heard St. Paul say, "I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance among the saints and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of His great power." [Eph. 1:17-9]

St Paul prayed that we may enjoy a spirit of wisdom and revelation so we may enjoy a knowledge of the Heavenly Father, not only of His Plan, but of knowing God as He knows Himself. St. Paul prayed that we may experience the great love of God for men in Christ, such a love being manifested through our love for each other in true Christian behaviour. Such an immeasurable power unites where once there was division. It heals where pain once existed. It forgives where condemnation once thrived. Such a love is not bound by gender, age, race, nationality or one's social class. It has no barriers whatsoever.

St. Paul continued by saying, "And (God the Father) has put all things under (the) feet (of Jesus) and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all." [Eph. 1:22-23]

When God created Adam and Eve, He "blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.'" [Gen. 1:18; Heb. 2:6-9] When Adam sinned through his disobedience to God, he relinquished control over the earth to the Prince of darkness who had become the ruler of the world. [Jn. 12:31] Now through the Blood of the Cross, the New Adam, Jesus, has repossessed what was rightfully His, dominion over all creations.

God made Jesus the Head over all things for the Church, which is His Body. In other words, Jesus is the invisible anointed Leader and Head of the visible Catholic Church that He has established on earth. He is also the Leader of the past, present and future saints who belong to the invisible mystical Body that enjoys its seat in Jerusalem.

Having dominion over all creations, Jesus commanded His apostles, "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age." [Mt. 28:19-20] Notice here that Jesus did not command the apostles to baptize in the "names" but rather in the "name." While referring to the three Divine Presences of the Holy Trinity, He used the word "name" in singular form. Some may ask, "Why is this?"

When reviewing the Gospel of John, Chapter 17 when Jesus was praying for His disciples, He said, "Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one as we are one." [Jn. 17:11] "I protected them in your name that you have given me." [Jn. 17:11] Notice here that Jesus states that He and the Father shared the same Name. And what was that Name? It was the Name of Jesus. Therefore, based on the aforementioned, it can logically be be understood that the Name Jesus also belonged to the Father.

Let us look at this from a different perspective. When St. Francis was blessed with the gift of bilocation, what was the name of his second presence? Was it not also "Francis?" Certainly! Both were Francis. Why? Because they were the one and same being, manifested in two presences. Similar to this, the Most Holy of all names, the Name of Jesus, belongs to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Therefore, in the Sacrament of Baptism, it is appropriate to invoke all three Divine Presences of the Blessed Trinity in the one Name.

In conclusion, who ascended into Heaven? It was God incarnated! It was Jesus in who the fullness of God dwelled bodily. [Col. 1:19; 2:9] It was Jesus, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

* * * * * * * * * *

The readings...

[The readings were taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (C) 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the United States of America.]

* * * * * * * * * *

First Reading...

"In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the Apostles whom he had chosen. After His suffering he presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the Kingdom of God.

While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. "This," he said, "is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.

So when they had come together, they asked him, 'Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?' He replied, 'It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.'

When He had said this, as they were watching, He was lifted up, and a cloud took Him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.'" [Acts 1:1-11]

* * * * * * * * * *

Second Reading...

"Brothers and sisters: I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know Him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of His glorious inheritance among the saints and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of His great power.

God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.

And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all." [Ephes. 1:17-23]

* * * * * * * * * *

Gospel Reading...

"The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. When they saw him, they worshipped him; but some doubted.

And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.'" [Mt. 28:16-20]

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