The Beatles have a great song called "Hello, Goodbye" that you've probably heard before. The chorus goes, "You say goodbye and I say hello, hello, hello. I don't know why you say goodbye, I say hello."
That song popped into my head as I thought about these readings for the Ascension of the Lord.
It's easy to forget about this important part of Jesus' mission. After His passion, death, and resurrection, He spent time with His disciples. He taught them, ate with them, and reassured them that it was really true: He was alive, more alive than anyone had ever been.
But the disciples were still waiting for something. They asked Him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?" They were expecting Jesus, the son of David and the Messiah, to restore the Kingdom of David. They wanted Him to bring about this golden age for Israel.
Jesus tells them that the timing of the coming of God's kingdom was not their concern, that now they had work to do. These are last words He spoke to them before He ascended: "... you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."
Then He's gone.
But rather than being the end of the story, it is really a beginning. The kingdom that they had asked about was going to come, but in a bigger way than they could have imagined and it was their mission that would bring it about.
The Ascension is not about Jesus saying "goodbye" to his disciples - it is a "hello" a new phase of history. From now on, Christ's body is present in the world through His Church. The Kingdom of God is coming to fulfillment - in us, His body.
When the Holy Spirit comes down on these disciples, they will explode out of the upper room taking the Gospel all over the world. That same Spirit empowers us today to do our part.
Jesus still speaks to the world - through us, His Church.
He still comforts those who are mourning and heals the sick - with our hands and our voices.
He took his humanity into the presence of the Father so that, one day, we can be there too.
The angels asked the disciples why they were "standing there looking at the sky?" They could be asking us the same question. Christ had not abandoned His people. He is present with us still today.
One day, He will visibly return, just as He promised; but, until then, we should be utterly clear on what our purpose is. We are His witnesses responsible for proclaiming Him everywhere we go.