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“The before” – first steps toward understanding the Kingdom

What a roller coaster ride for the disciples of Jesus!

Some of Jesus’ disciples spent three years following Him.  They heard Him teach about God’s Kingdom. They were fascinated by what he said… and did. He came to proclaim the Good News. “The Kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 4:16 ff, 17:21).

His message got their attention. They wanted to be part of this kingdom. He told many stories trying to explain what the kingdom of God is like. He tried to expand their horizons about a kingdom modeled on secular society.  He tried to broaden their horizons about what it would mean to live in God’s kingdom.

Then in one week, it all crashed.  They went from the jubilation of Palm Sunday and the intimacy of the last supper to the dashing of their hopes on Friday They saw him nailed to a cross, die a horrible death, and his body placed in a sealed tomb They had believed Jesus was God’s Promised Messiah. It was traumatic for their understanding of the kingdom.

Then came the rumors he was alive. Just when they allowed themselves to rejoice in his surprising appearances he left them. He ascended into heaven.

What was this all about? They were filled with fear wondering what would happen to them without him.

What a roller coaster of emotions!

The Ascension according to the Book of Acts

Gathered together, they asked him,

 “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”  

Even at this point, they could not get past their preconceived ideas of the kingdom. They were still thinking of a kingdom as they had experienced it – a kingdom with those on the bottom and those on the top… but now they would be on the top.

He answered them…

“It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has established by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” 

When he had said this, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him from their sight.

The challenge of understanding “after” the Ascension

They very much needed the gift of the Holy Spirit to explain to them that Jesus will be present in and through them.

“While they were looking intently at the sky as he was going, suddenly two men dressed in white garments stood beside them.  They said, “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.”

Look within you! You are to continue the Incarnation. You are the presence of Jesus!

Look around you! You are to be the good news of my loving presence, especially to the least of my brothers and sisters.

The question “Why are you looking at the sky?” is addressed to us today.

Today, we are those dazed apostles looking up rather than within and around ourselves.

The Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes are enacted in the one commandment ‘wash one another’s feet as I have washed your feet. And still, we struggle to understand!

Throughout the centuries we have been challenged to realize we are Jesus’ presence in the world. We are his presence in our world. St. Vincent was in his day. St. Vincent reminds us where to look!

Do we

  • Look within?
  • Look around?
  • Wash one another’s feet?

Click below for an audio version of this Vincentian Mindwalk

“The Before” and “The After” of Jesus’ Ascension