Breath of the Spirit 5.4.2008
> Breath of the Spirit
> RVC's Weekly Spiritual Essay
> MAY 4, 2008: ASCENSION OF JESUS
> Acts 1:1-11
> Ephesians 1:17-23
> Matthew 28:16-20
> One of the most fascinating aspects of today's celebration of Jesus'
> ascension is that the gospel we employ for our liturgical reading
> nothing about Jesus' ascension. Though most of us presume the next
> Jesus does after he assures his disciples, "I am with you always,
> until the
> end of the age," is to start rising into heaven, Matthew never says
> His gospel ends at this point.
> Scripture scholars have been warning us for a long time that we
> can't take
> for granted one evangelist knows what any other evangelist wrote.
> debate whether John was familiar with Mark, Matthew and Luke. But
> agrees Matthew and Luke knew only Mark (the first evangelist) and
> also convinced Matthew and Luke didn't know one another. So we
> can't argue
> that Matthew didn't need to finish his narrative with an actual
> because "everybody" already knew that's what happened. Unless
> someone reads
> Luke/Acts, he or she doesn't know that. (There's no ascension in
> canonical gospel.) Besides, the meeting Matthew describes between
> Jesus and
> his disciples takes place on a mountain "in Galilee." The ascension
> Luke depicts in our first reading takes place outside Jerusalem on
> the Mt.
> of Olives, at least 60 miles south of Galilee!
> Knowing this, Luke's opening Acts narrative of Jesus ascending into
> after 40 days of instructing "the apostles he had chosen" is, to
> say the
> least, problematic.
> One key to unlock the confusion is to understand that it took Jesus'
> earliest followers a long time to "sort things out." They certainly
> have everything together by Pentecost evening. Most people don't
> there's at least a 40 year interval between Jesus' death and
> and the writing of the first gospel.
> Paul's letters are the only writing which have come down to us from
> interval. That's why our Ephesians passage is so significant.
> Though Paul
> originally expected Jesus to triumphantly return during his
> lifetime, he
> doesn't seem to have been too worried about Jesus' zip code before
> return. The Apostle certainly believes the risen Jesus is present
> in the
> midst of his followers. (He even told the Corinthians, "Jesus
> appeared to
> me!") But at the same time he can theologize, "(God) worked in Christ,
> raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the
> ... And he put all things beneath his feet and gave him as head
> over all
> things to the church, which is his body . . . ."
> Paul's being more poetic than geographic. He's concerned his readers
> understand that the risen Jesus is at the center of their life and
> faith. He
> employs symbolic language to convey that reality.
> In a parallel way, Matthew wants to convince his community that
> Jesus both
> commissions them to carry on his ministry" to all nations," and
> "I am with you always, until the end of the age."
> Luke, the first author of the Christian Scriptures to believe Jesus
> going to return in the Parousia during his lifetime, has a somewhat
> different agenda. He's concerned with those in his community who
> are still
> "looking at the sky," spending their time planning for Jesus'
> return instead
> of carrying on Jesus' ministry. The "two men dressed in white
> garments" are
> telling Jesus' followers, "Ok, you've got work to do; so do it!"
> Perhaps the theological diversity in today's three readings should
> us to respect the theological diversity that exists in Christianity
> Our sacred authors constantly tell us that one theology doesn't fit
> everyone's faith needs.
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