The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

Feast of the Ascension - 12th May, 2013

The feast of the Ascension provides us with, in many ways, the link between Easter and Pentecost.  The frightened group of believers who gathered in the upper room after the resurrection have come a long way.  While in the aftermath of the resurrection they felt themselves to be abandoned, now, as Jesus ascends into heaven, they are left once again but it is a very different experience.  Now they know that the leaving is not an abandonment.  This is more like the leaving of a parent who is to return.  The disciples know that they are able to manage until that return takes place.  The attitude of this first church is one of waiting.

Next week, with the feast of Pentecost, it will become clear that the proper attitude of the disciples is not, in fact, simply to await the return of Jesus.  With Pentecost this tiny church becomes a missionary group that goes forth to spread the message of Jesus.

Many authors maintain that the church was founded at Pentecost.  This is partly true.  Certainly, the church achieved already much of the characteristics it still has through the experience of Pentecost.  The charismatic nature of the church; its missionary character; the "obligation" to preach the message - all become very evident in Pentecost.  However, it is timely to recall the Ascension.  Already, by the presence of the disciples at the Ascension, we can discern the presence of the church - that first nucleus of believers who are united because of the Lord, for the Lord, and in hope of the Lord.

Jesus already breathed the Spirit on the disciples when they were gathered in the upper room after the resurrection.  The formation of this community who would perpetuate the presence of Christ was something that happened in stages.  Pentecost is not, therefore, a bolt from the blue.  It is the culmination of a development.  In Pentecost the post-resurrection encounters with the risen Lord and the experience of the Ascension, are transformed into a mission.  Pentecost is an irruption of understanding, courage, wisdom, right judgement,, knowledge, reverence and wonder and awe into the lives of the disciples.  These gifts of the Spirit are transformative.

Just as Christians receive the Holy Spirit when they are baptised and are later confirmed in that gift, so the first members of this tiny church received the Spirit through their encounter with the risen Christ.  In Pentecost the presence of this gift in them becomes undeniable.  The gifts of the Spirit transform them from potency into act.

The feast of the Ascension, then, is really the feast that marks the beginning of the church.  Its first beginning if you like.  Its beginning while it awaits the gifts of the Spirit that will transform it.

As we gather today it is appropriate for us to ask ourselves about the way in which we are church.  Do we allow the gifts of the Spirit to lie fallow in our community?  Or are we active in expressing the gifts of the Spirit in the way we try to live out our Christian calling?  Today's feast presents a challenge to us to embrace our spirit-filledness and step up to the plate as missionaries and spreaders of the message of Christ.

What does it mean to embrace our spirit-filledness?  Often, when we speak of the Spirit we run the risk of arriving at one of two extremes.  Either we can attribute everything to the Spirit to the extent that the presence of the Spirit in our lives can become almost bland; or we can be so sceptical about the presence or action of the Spirit that we are reluctant to acknowledge it at all. 

To be spirit-filled is not complicated.  It is, quite simply, to make God present in our world.  If we find that we are striving to make God present in our world we will find that we are acting on the gifts of the Spirit that have been given to us.


Article posted on 7th of May 2013

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