Sunday 5 May

6th Sunday of Easter

Acts 15.1-2, 22-29; Psalm 66; Revelation 21.10-14, 22-23; John 14.23 -29

In the Acts of the Apostles Luke recounts several incidents, like today, when the early Church gradually stepped away from its Jewish roots. Luke tends to make the development seem orderly and calm – after all Luke is always insistent that all this is the work of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church. Nonetheless what happened was very radical in practice. It is also interesting for us to note what things the apostles and elders in Jerusalem regarded as essential – probably not a list we would draw up today! It is always worth pointing out to those who are uncomfortable with change and innovation that it has always been thus – the Church living in the world is constantly adapting its practice so as to be able to engage with the people and culture of the time, while at the same time holding firm to ‘the word’ that Jesus has given. That is why in today’s gospel Jesus tells the apostles that the Father will send the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to teach them everything and ‘remind you of all I have said to you.’ The Holy Spirit that the elders and apostles in Jerusalem invoke in making their decision is the same Spirit that Jesus has promised will remain with the Church, and is operative today in the lives of believers.

Sunday 12 May

Ascension of the Lord

Acts 1.1-11, Psalm 46; Ephesians 1.17-23 or Hebrews 9.24-28; 10.19-23; Luke 2.4, 46-53

The story of the fall at the beginning of the scriptures is in some ways paralleled by today’s story – the story of the ascension at the end of the scriptures. The ascension is not primarily about a date when Jesus departs in bodily form from the world but about the fulfilment of the resurrection – the presence of humanity before God. Jesus is incarnate, takes on flesh, and is truly human; so in the ascension as the completion of the resurrection, humanity in its fullness has entered into the divine realm. Just as the garden was where humanity in the first Adam walked with God, so the ascension is humanity in the second Adam enthroned with God.

In human experience there is a resonance that somehow human beings are destined for something more than that which we perceive as our current lot. The human yearning, the constant failures and disappointments are invited to respond in faith. That is why this story, this truth of faith, echoes in human hearts and lives – humankind is created with an appetite for the infinite – for God, and nothing less will content it. The Ascension tells us that humanity – our humanity – will reach that goal, and that humanity in Jesus Christ risen and ascended already shares the very life of God. The Ascension lies opposite the fall; the raising replaces and, indeed, surpasses the falling.

As today’s preface states: Where the head has gone, the body will follow – that means the feast of the Ascension is not an historical detail about Jesus, but it is a pointer to our destiny, a sign of what we are intended for.

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