As we celebrate the solemnity of the Ascension today, there are several points which can be considered “surprising”. Why would Jesus ascend into Heaven before the Church had fully spread to all nations? Wouldn’t it make more sense if He stuck around a little longer? Another fact that has always astonished me was the fact that Jesus counted on the VERY human Apostles to carry on His work. During the Lord’s public ministry, they certainly didn’t do very much to prove their qualifications as scholars or leaders!
However, in my opinion, the most surprising fact about Jesus’ Ascension into Heaven can be found in St. Luke’s version of the gospel:
Then he led them (out) as far as Bethany, raised his hands, and blessed them. As he blessed them he parted from them and was taken up to heaven. They did him homage and then returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and they were continually in the temple praising God. (Luke 24:50-53)
When we put ourselves in the Apostles’ shoes, we often think that they were terrified or sad when Jesus left them. However, the above passage tells us that they had “great joy”! How is that possible? After all, they saw how Jesus was rejected and persecuted and now THEY were going to be the targets of that same treatment. In addition, what skills did they really possess? How were they going to make disciples of all the nations?
What they discovered is that the Lord can give them His peace, even in the midst of turmoil. This is a lesson that each of us can learn in our own lives. No matter how crazy or hectic our lives become, we can still experience the Lord’s peace. Ask Him to send you that same peace that was felt by the Apostles and you’ll see that you can also have “great joy”, even when it doesn’t make sense!