Unfinished Business – But Hope
Having escaped the clutches of his enemies by rising from the dead, the Lord ascends, like the prophet Elijah, to heaven.
In biblical language and imagery this manner of describing the close of Jesus’ earthly ministry signals that the One who had been crucified on the trumped-up charge of being a political Messiah has now entered into his true messianic glory at God’s right hand.
This entrance into heavenly glory does not mean that Jesus abandons either his disciples or his saving mission in the world. Rather, he will continue to exercise that mission through the ministry of the Church, empowered (at Pentecost) by the same Spirit that rested upon him.
Just before he departs, the disciples voice an understandable concern: “Lord, has the time come? Are you going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” The query betrays a strong sense of “unfinished business”. Despite the Easter victory, forces hostile to God and to true humanity continue to hold sway in the world—as the disciples, and we ourselves, remain acutely aware.
Jesus does not give a direct answer. The time of the Kingdom’s full arrival remains shrouded in the mystery of God. The disciples’ task, meanwhile, is to take up the messianic mission of Jesus, bringing the hope of the resurrection to an often despairing world.
The Ascension is not, then, simply something that happened to Jesus. As the Preface of the Mass says so well, he “has passed beyond our sight, not to abandon us but to be our hope; where he has gone, we hope to follow”.