By Fr. Bill Nordenbrock, C.PP.S.
The Solemnity of the Ascension is one of the universally recognized Christian Feasts (along with Christmas, Easter and Pentecost). Traditionally, it has been observed 40 days after Easter, although it is an indication of the importance of the Solemnity that the observance has been moved to Sunday so that more people might be able to attend Mass. Together, the reading from the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospel narrative from St. Luke provide an evocative account for our meditation and instructions for our lives of faith.
While the title of the Solemnity suggests that the story is about Jesus leaving and returning to the Father, an equally important aspect of the story is the repeated commissioning of the apostles to continue the mission of Jesus. I would think that we could call this the Solemnity of “I’m leaving now so you all get to work!”
The words of Jesus are not so much about saying goodbye as to remind the apostles of their call to be effective witnesses of what they have seen and come to believe in Jesus. And the words of Jesus are rich with the promise of the coming events of Pentecost, which was a gift that would be given to empower them for the work at hand.
The message is clear: Wait for the promise of the Father to be fulfilled and you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit. Then go to the ends of the earth proclaiming your belief in the Christ, who lived and died and rose again, before returning to the Father.
The Ascension of Jesus was the end of his physical presence on earth, but it was also the beginning of the apostolic Church and our missionary journey. The time of instruction or formation for the apostles was completed and the laying on of the Holy Spirit was soon to come.
The need for a Spirit of wisdom and understanding is apparent. Just as Jesus is about to ascend to heaven, the continuing confusion of the apostles is heard in their asking if finally it was time for the Lord to restore Israel. So with a final blessing, the final words of instruction from Jesus was to tell them that his life and message was not just about Israel, but a message they were to take to everyone, everywhere.
This Ascension event was not just a message for the apostles. The call to take the message of Christ to everyone, everywhere is a vocation given to everybody. Today, Jesus is still telling us to get to work, to go and evangelize whenever, wherever and to whoever. The final words of Jesus were an affirmation of the unbounded love of God for all God’s people. This resonates with a Precious Blood spirituality that proclaims that the Precious Blood was given to reconcile all people to God; to bring all people near.
A Precious Blood person should hear today a renewed call to be an apostle of the Precious Blood. Our call is to take the message to everyone, everywhere. Whenever, wherever, to whoever. Today we renew our commitment to a missionary vocation. Let’s get to work and proclaim the merits of the Precious Blood of Christ!
A former moderator general of the worldwide congregation, Fr. Bill Nordenbrock, C.PP.S., continues to minister in service to the Community. Currently he resides in Chicago and is the interim director of advanced formation.