“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.”
These words from The Acts of the Apostles are part of the first reading appointed for Ascension Day, which is today. Forty days after Easter, this day marks the end of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances to the disciples. No more suddenly being in the midst of them in a locked room; no more breakfast on the beach; no more conversations on the road followed by breaking bread together. They watched him go, and they were astounded. They were also probably more than a little afraid: what was to come next? What were they to do? It was all an unknown. Ten days later they would receive the Holy Spirit like flames of fire, marking the beginning of their own ministries and what we now call the Church. But in that moment, as they watched him go, they didn’t know.
This was an end for them, but also a beginning. Jesus would not appear to them again as Other, in the human form that they knew and recognized. But he was with them -in them – nonetheless, always, wherever they were and whatever they were doing. They might not see him, but they could trust that he was there, just as he had promised.
And so it is for us. We may not see him, but we trust his promise that he is there with us, always, wherever we are, whatever we are doing. We might well imagine the next line of the ‘two men in white robes’ might be something like this: “…so, close your mouths, and get on with your lives and your work. There is so much to tell, so much to share, and you are the very ones for this task.”
Peace and blessing,
Let us pray:
Almighty God, whose blessed Son our Savior Jesus Christ ascended far above all heavens that he might fill all things: Mercifully give us faith to perceive that, according to his promise, he abides with his Church on earth, even to the end of the ages; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.