Spring is here and with it rain showers that wash away the dirt and mould of melted winter snows. When I see it raining outside I rarely if ever think about the mysterious process or cycle that creates it: how the sun rises each day and its warming heat evaporates the water from the earth, rises up invisibly into clouds that store water to come down as rain; to wash clean and replenish the earth once again. Reflecting on this for a time, I find in it a way to understand the importance of Jesus’ ascension and how it is part of a dynamic movement of the gift of God’s Spirit in our lives.
In our first reading from Acts, Luke ties the whole dynamism of Jesus’ life together “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.” The Apostles are told by Jesus to remain in Jerusalem and wait for the promise of the Father that is the gift of the Spirit. They wait as they’re told, and we hear that when they come together they ask a temporal question, very concerned with their time and place. Will Israel be restored?
Jesus sets out for them the bigger picture that encompasses a much wider and deeper vision of life. When the Spirit comes they will receive power — the power of God’s love to heal, transform, nourish and renew, and as they live and act out of this power they will witness to Christ throughout the whole of the earth. Then we hear, “As they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” Like dew lifted from the earth, Jesus is lifted away from the sight of the Apostles, and they are consoled by two men in white robes who assure them he will “come in the same way as they saw him go into heaven.” What goes up will come down, will return to fill their hearts, and continues in this way through time eternal for every generation of life.
In both readings from Ephesians this dynamic movement of Christ’s resurrection and ascension is revealed as the stimulus for the rain of the Spirit’s power to be released. In Ephesians 1.17ff, we hear, “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.” The power of the Spirit is activated through Christ’s resurrection and ascension.
In the alternate reading from Ephesians we hear the question, “When it says, ‘He ascended,’ what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.” Christ descends to the heart of all matter, all life in creation and ascends to fill all energies from the lowest interior part of the earth to the highest heavens so that the power of the Spirit releases the gifts of wisdom, revelation, “until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.”
Mark’s Gospel sums it up neatly. Jesus says to the Apostles, the disciples, and us today, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to the whole of creation.” The spiritual life for Jesus is a transformation of the whole of creation through his Spirit. We are one with each other and with creation in this ongoing work of the Spirit.
The Feast of Jesus’ Ascension to heaven reminds us to wait on God through those grey winter days and storms of life; to trust and stay grounded in the bigger picture of God’s promise for spiritual transformation in our lives. Spring comes and with it the rains of God’s Spirit to wash us clean, renew and nourish us. When we arrive at full maturity in Christ we live the power of the Spirit, giving life, sharing good news, ascending ourselves into higher and higher realms of heaven on earth.
Leduc is director for Star of the North Retreat Centre in St. Albert, Alta.