Father Donald Senior, CP

May 29: Ascension of the Lord

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Going home

Acts 1:1-11; Ps 47:2-3, 6-7, 8-9; Eph 1:17-23; Lk 24:46-53

The anthem “Going Home” has struck a deep chord in the human heart. The haunting melody was adapted from the famed Czech composer Antonin Dvorak’s Ninth Symphony in 1893, and the lyrics added by his pupil William Arms Fisher. Dvorak came to America a few years before and his melody evokes his own longing to return “home.”

The combination of melody and lyrics made it an enduring classic, evoking not just a simple return home but a more profound longing for an enduring rest.

Here is a sample: Going home, going home / I’m just going home / Quiet light, some still day / I’m just going home / It’s not far, just close by / Through an open door / Work all done, care laid by / Going to fear no more / I’m going home / Nothing’s lost, all’s gain / No more fret nor pain / No more stumbling on the way / No more longing for the day / Morning star lights the way / Restless dream all done / Shadows gone, break of day / Real life begun / Going home, going home.

Today is the feast of the Ascension and the New Testament portrays the final destiny of Jesus as “going home” to his father. The Ascension of Jesus is explicitly cited in Luke’s Gospel and in his second volume, the Acts of Apostles. John’s Gospel, too, emphasizes Jesus’ longed-for return to his father.

More than any of the other Gospels, Luke presents the life and mission of Jesus as a long journey. On one level, it is a journey from his ministry in the northern region of Galilee to the city of Jerusalem where Jesus’ destiny will unfold. But on a deeper level, the journey in which Jesus is engaged is a journey through death and resurrection to the eternal embrace of his Father at the completion of his mission. 

The Gospel selection from Luke portrays that moment. The risen Jesus commissions his disciples the continuance of his own sacred mission: They are to proclaim “repentance” and “forgiveness of sins” to “all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” The disciples are to be “witnesses of these things,” bringing the beauty and reconciling power of God’s love to the world.

Then, Jesus leads them to Bethany. There he gives them his final blessing and “is taken up to heaven.”

The first reading from the Acts of the Apostles describes the impact of this dramatic moment. For 40 days after his resurrection, Jesus instructed and encouraged his disciples. Now the time had come for him to return home. 

The risen and exalted Jesus promises to send them the gift of the Spirit that would empower them to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and the ends of the earth.” The account of the expanding mission of the early church consumes the entire narrative of the Acts of the Apostles.

There is a dramatic conclusion to this passage. While the disciples stare into the heavens where Jesus has gone, two angels bring them back to earth: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up from you into heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into heaven.” 

Don’t just stand there, the message seems to say, there is work to be done. Get ready!

Although not quoted here, John’s Gospel also portrays Jesus returning home to his father at the conclusion of his earthly mission. This motif runs deep in John’s Gospel. 

Jesus repeatedly refers to himself as the “one sent” by his father, “not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved through him.” As his Passion begins, “Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father.”  

And to his anxious followers, distraught at the thought of losing him, Jesus assures them he goes to prepare a place for them, and “I will come back again and take you to myself, so that where I am you also may be.”

The feast of the Ascension is a promise that our final destiny, like that of Jesus, is “going home.”


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