It is very interesting to know that number forty is a significant number in the Scriptures. Why did Jesus leave his disciples forty days after his resurrection? Moses went to the mountain to seek the face of God for forty days in prayer and fasting. The people of Israel were in the wilderness for forty years in preparation for their entry into the promised land. Elijah fasted for forty days as he journeyed in the wilderness to the mountain of God. Jesus went to the desert and fasted for forty days, and for forty days after his resurrection, Jesus appeared numerous times to his disciples to assure them that he had risen indeed and to prepare them for the task of carrying on the work which he began during his earthly ministry.
Jesus’ departure and ascension were both an end and a beginning for his disciples. While it was the end of Jesus’ physical presence with his disciples, it marked the beginning of Jesus’ presence with them in a new way. Jesus promised that he would be with them always to the end of time. Now as the glorified and risen Lord and Savior, ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven, Jesus promised to send them the Holy Spirit who would anoint them with power on the Feast of Pentecost, just as Jesus was anointed for his ministry at the River Jordan. When the Lord Jesus departed physically from the apostles, they were not left in sorrow or grief. Instead, they were filled with joy and with great anticipation for the coming of the Holy Spirit. So, for us, the Holy Spirit has come to our lives, and we can be Jesus’ witnesses of this new life and joy.
Jesus’ last words to his apostles point to his saving mission and to their mission to be witnesses of his saving death and his glorious resurrection and to proclaim the good news of salvation to all the world. Their task is to proclaim the gospel – the good news of salvation – not only to the people of Israel but to all the nations as well. God’s love and the gift of salvation are not reserved for a few or for one nation alone, but it is for the whole world – for all who will accept it. The gospel is the power of God, the power to release people from their burden of guilt, sin, and oppression, and the power to heal, restore, and make us whole. Do you believe in the power of the gospel?
This is the great commission that the risen Christ gives to the whole church. All believers have been given a share in this task – to be heralds of the good news and ambassadors for Jesus Christ, the only savior of the world. We have not been left alone in this task, for the risen Lord works in and through us by the power of his Holy Spirit. Today we witness a new Pentecost as the Lord pours out his Holy Spirit upon his people to renew and strengthen the body of Christ and to equip it for effective ministry and mission worldwide. Do you witness to others the joy of the gospel and the hope of the resurrection? Happy Ascension Day, and let us pray that we also may receive the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Peace and good.
Fr. Oscar Mendez, OFM
Pastor, Mission San Luis Rey Parish
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