The first part of the title of this post comes from a hip-hop song by De La Soul in honor of J-Dilla, late great beat maker. While the song does not have to do with the Ascension of Christ which we celebrated last week, maybe there are some echoes of truth in it, and I don’t think looking too hard. The last verse of the song has a line that goes, “the will of God was To give the man wings and to ascend to make music to blend with the King of Kings.”
Jesus Christ ascended to heaven on his own Divine Power, in other words, he was not assumed. Because he has ascended, the members of the Head await the day when we will all be taken up to where he is and to share in his reign, to make music to praise God (Definitely not playing harps and floating on clouds as disembodied souls). This was and is the will of God.
The Ascension necessitates and leads up to today’s great Feast of Pentecost. It is the 50th day of the Easter season, the culmination of the events of the Exodus, the completion of the Paschal mystery by which Jesus delivered us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. And he gives us the ability to be transformed into him, to be partakers of his Divine Nature through grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit who always makes him present.
At Mount Olivet , before he ascended, Jesus was asked by the disciples if the long-awaited messianic kingdom of God would be established and the Davidic line would finally be restored. He answered that ““It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samar′ia and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1). In other words, “just wait and see what happens when you receive the Holy Spirit.” The kingdom of God inaugurated at Pentecost, the birth of the Church, which is the kingdom of God. Once empowered, the Apostles and disciples of Jesus are to be leaders and ambassadors to all the nations building up the kingdom and introducing the reign of Christ.
The mission of Christ now becomes the mission of all the Members united to his Body. This is the work of the Holy Spirit which began at Pentecost. And we enter into this mystery on this day. We receive the gift of the Holy Ghost who was manifested in tongues of fire.
About the Ascension and the connection with Pentecost, St. Paul says in his Letter to the Ephesians:
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of us all, who is above all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it is said,
“When he ascended on high he led a host of captives,Ephesians 4:4-8
and he gave gifts to men.”
St. Paul quotes a line from Psalm 68,
Thou didst ascend the high mount,Psalm 68:18
leading captives in thy train,
and receiving gifts among men,
even among the rebellious, that the Lord God may dwell there.
Actually, it looks like he got it wrong! It says that he, Jesus Christ who is God, ( whom the Psalm is alluding to), received gifts – – – not that he gave gifts. So which is correct? Ephesians or the Psalm? St. Paul continues by explaining the gifts he is talking about:
And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
Ephesians 4:11 – 13
These gifts are contained in the gift who is the Holy Spirit. He equips us to build up the kingdom of God through individual and communal transformation into Christ himself. And the thing is, once we are transformed, once we begin to cooperate with the will of God by cooperating with the Holy Ghost who enables us to keep and do the will of God, we become gifts to Jesus! And he receives us as his gifts. This is why Jesus prays, “Father, they are your gift to me. I wish that where I am they also may be with me, that they may see my glory that you gave me, because you loved me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24 NABRE).