“Gladden us with holy joy, almighty God … for the Ascension of Christ your Son is our exaltation, and where the Head has gone before in glory, the Body is called to follow in hope.” These words are from the opening prayer of the feast of the Ascension, celebrated this Sunday in most places in the United States. The account of Jesus’ Ascension is told twice in our readings, from Acts (the first reading) and then from Luke (the Gospel). A characteristic of the Gospel writer Luke is his interest in places. Jesus tells his disciples to stay in the city (Jerusalem), but for the Ascension, he leads them out of it about two miles to the village of Bethany. You walk pretty steeply uphill to get to Bethany. In Scripture, high places often are where God appears or speaks. Unlike Jerusalem, Bethany was a “happy place” for Jesus and his disciples. It is the village where they “hung out” at the home of Jesus’ friends Martha and Mary and Lazarus, where they enjoyed a great meal, and where Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. It’s the town where Jesus ate with a man named Simon and had his feet anointed with perfumed oil. So being in Bethany helped those experiencing Jesus’ Ascension to understand it. He was going to prepare another banquet for them. He was blessing or anointing them with power from on high. His leaving them did not dismay them — “they did him homage and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” They returned to their lives in Jerusalem where they had to mingle with many people, and meet with persecution and other kinds of opposition, but also grow in their understanding of who they were and what their mission was. The Ascension is a metaphor of our own Christian lives, of course. It tells us what we are doing here on earth. “Clothed with power from on high,” we, like the apostles, move through the hard things in our lifetimes as we “the Body” follow Him in hope.
— Blog entry by Sister Mary Garascia