On the last time that Jesus appeared to the disciples before being taken back up into heaven, they asked him the question that was most important to them still, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom of Israel?” (verse 6) His response to them was, “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (verses 7-8)
Jesus’ mission on earth was complete. Now it would be put into the hands of his Apostles. At this moment in time, even with the events of the death and the resurrection, and Jesus’ appearances to them after the resurrection, they were still not fully clear on what was going to happen next and how God was going to enable them to take up the mission Jesus had given them to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria, and ultimately, to the ends of the earth. One more encounter with the Divine was yet needed, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon them at Pentecost.
As they watched, Jesus was lifted up into a cloud and they could see him no more. We can only imagine how they must have felt at that moment. In their humanity, they must have felt not just awe, but anxious wonder. What were they to do? Their minds and hearts must have spun with the realization that they would not see him again in their lives. They had depended on him and his wisdom for everything. The time that they had spent with him during his ministry, his death and then his glorious resurrection, all of this must have swirled in their minds at that moment. What next? They must have felt so alone. Then, as their gaze came down from the skies to the earth once again, they saw two men dressed in white garments. These two men, obviously angels of God, brought them back to their senses saying, “Why do you stand there looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken away from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (verse 11) The promise has been given to them, and to us, of Jesus’ return on the Last Day.
These 2,016 years later, we continue to await the Second Coming. Still, like the Apostles and disciples, we wait in the strength of faith, the confidence of hope, and the power of love. We wait knowing that its time will come according to the Father’s Divine plan. As it was with the Apostles and the disciples in the earliest days of the Church, it is the Holy Spirit that continues to give us the strength of faith, a boundless sense of hope, and who fills us with the power of God’s love in all things. Because of this faith, hope and love, we, now, are his witnesses to the ends of the earth. We are his disciples today. Now, we are the ones who are commissioned to spread the Gospel, to teach the world around us, that is, the intimate world of our daily lives, about the love and mercy of God. We are to do this not just with our words, but with our very lives. We are the ones that Jesus was talking about when he said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:29)
Lord, our hearts yearn for you every day. Indeed, “Our hearts are restless until they can find rest in you.” (St. Augustine) We pray for the humility to open our minds and hearts to listen to your word in the scriptures, and the grace to respond to it with humble dedication. Make of us your good and faithful witnesses in the little “ends of the earth” that you have placed us in. We pray these things in your name, dear Jesus. Amen!
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