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Sunday Scripture: The apostles waited for the Spirit

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June 5, 2011

By Sister Betty J. Lillie, S.C.

The Ascension of the Lord:  Acts 1:1-11; Psalm 47: 2-3, 6-9; Ephesians 1:17-23; Matthew 28: 16-20.

Our first reading for this Sunday from the Acts of the Apostles follows the tradition that through 40 days Jesus presented himself alive to the Apostles He had chosen. Some of the many proofs Jesus gave them are related in the last chapter of the Gospel of Luke (Luke 24), and they provide a link with the Acts of the Apostles.


It is in Luke 24 that we also have the beautiful event of the meeting of Jesus and two of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. We note that their recognition of Him in the breaking of the bread was linked with His staying with them. In our reading from Acts the same idea of His staying with them and appearing to them often presents an interesting nuance that we do not notice in the English text, but a Greek reader would easily infer from the language itself. In Greek the same word is used for staying as is used for eating. Jesus stayed with them and ate with them at Emmaus. It may also be implicit in His staying with them in Jerusalem for 40 days that He also ate with them. We have only to reflect for a moment to remember the many meals Jesus took among His disciples, including the Lord’s Supper where He told them to “Take and eat” (Matthew 26:26). And then He promised to stay with them until the end of time (Matthew 28:20). 


However, Jesus would not stay with them in His visible presence for all time. Jesus spoke to His disciples about their waiting for Him in Jerusalem until they would receive the promise of the Father (Acts 1:4). The promise was the coming of the Holy Spirit by which Jesus would remain with the church. They would be baptized with power and witness to Him to the ends of the earth, or to all nations (Acts 1:8; Matthew 28:19). Having spoken to them about all this and about the kingdom of God (Acts 1:3), Jesus was lifted up, or ascended, to heaven (Acts 1:9-10).


Continuing with the theme of Jesus’ return to the heavenly kingdom, we have a passage from the beautiful Letter to the Ephesians. The Father has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of His will. As a plan for the fullness of time, God would unite all things in Christ, things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:9-10). In Jesus all who have heard the good news of salvation and have believed are sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the guarantee of our inheritance even now and until we acquire possession of it in eternal glory. 


Thus we have a beautiful Trinitarian emphasis that suggests the privilege and destiny of believers. The figure of the church as the body of Christ, and the members as fellow heirs in the same body, makes us all partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel (Ephesians 1:23; 3:6). The sense of the fullness of Christ filling all in all is an extension of Jesus’ mystic person. 


With the psalmist we can shout to God with loud songs of joy. God is king over all the earth. Sing praises with a psalm (Psalm 47)! 


Sister Betty Jane is a faculty member at the Athenaeum of Ohio.


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