by Ken Rolheiser
The Miracles of the Ascension

The forty days after Christ’s Resurrection might well be called an age of miracles. The Ascension, which punctuated this age, could be considered one of the greatest miracles along with the Birth of Christ and the Resurrection.

In Acts Jesus meets with the disciples and continues his miracles through them. For example, in Acts 5:15, Peter is filled with the Holy Spirit and even his shadow has the power to heal. Then in Acts 8:39, after teaching about Christ and baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch, the Holy Spirit snatched Philip away and he appears in Azotus.

Peter raises Tabitha from the dead. (Acts 9:36-42); St Paul brings Eutychus back to life after he had fallen to his death from a third story window where he fell asleep during Paul’s homily. In Acts 20:9-12 a viper latches on to Paul’s arm but causes no harm. (Acts 28:3-6).

The list goes on with healing of blind, paralyzed, lame and possessed. Then there are three dramatic jail breaks (Acts 5 to 16), the tongues of fire at Pentecost and a worship service so powerful the earth quaked. (Acts 4:31).

Jesus appears twelve different times after his resurrection, beginning with Mary Magdalene. The Emmaus story is well known; then the upper room apparitions without Thomas and later with Thomas. Later to 500 brethren at once.

And Jesus dines with the apostles and eats fish with them by the Sea of Galilee. By now the scripture reader is so used to Christ’s presence in the salvation story that we take for granted his appearance in the Ascension scene at the Mount of Olives. 

In this miraculous presence with the disciples they ask Jesus, “Is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” They just did not get it yet!

Jesus replies that only the Father knows that hour. “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem.” (Acts 1:6-8). Then he ascends to heaven.

Catholic journalist Gerald Korson lists key messages from the Ascension story. Number 1: Jesus opened heaven to our human nature. By his bodily Resurrection and Ascension, Jesus brought his human nature into heaven and “opened the gates of heaven” for us, so we can follow. Jesus went to prepare a place for us. (John 4:3).

Number 2: He would send the Holy Spirit to teach us all things and bring to our remembrance “all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26). Number 3: The work of the Church continues - “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19).

Number 4: He remains present in the world in a new way - in the Church, in the hearts of his faithful, in the sacraments, in Scripture and wherever his faithful are gathered. And in a real, physical way — his body, blood, soul and divinity — remains with us in the Eucharist itself.

 Number 5. Jesus ascended to return at the end of time. The work of the Church begun at Pentecost will not be completed until Christ returns in power at the final judgment.

Meanwhile, we keep the love of Christ alive by loving one another. We are the branches; Christ is the vine. “I am with you always.” (Matthew 28).

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