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GOSPEL COMMENTARIES


 

 

ASCENSION OF OUR LORD (Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-20;
Luke 24:46-53)

In the Gospel for Ascension, Christ continues to wind up His instructions to His disciples. First, He summarizes what He had taught them; secondly, He reminds them of what is required before they set forth to evangelize the Jews and the Gentiles; and, thirdly, He taught them how to wait for the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. 

First, Christ reminds them of all the commands He had given (which we must differentiate from the 10 commandments of God). He preaches repentance that leads to the forgiveness of sins. Repentance is to suffer with Christ, then rising with Christ as a resultant reward. First, show repentance and Christ will grant pardon for transgressions for which He endureth death. And a sign that we have truly repented is that we do not return to our old sins.

Then Christ breathes on them to give them a temporary presence of the Holy Spirit that they may understand the teachings He was summarizing to them.

Secondly, a good general prepares his soldiers for battle. So Christ prepares His disciples for the greater spiritual battle; they must receive the Holy Spirit, not as they had previously, in a temporary way, but in a permanent Indwelling. The disciples were not to go forth to the conflict without this Indwelling. Pope St. Gregory reminds us that those with imperfections must not rashly arrogate the responsibility of preaching to themselves unless they have the permanent Indwelling. Otherwise, they would only preach heresies or wreck the amendment of their lives. The sign of the permanent presence of the Holy Spirit is that we know all the commands of Christ (which is different from the 10 commandments of God), we know exactly how to execute those commands and we do not forget any of the commands at any moment (a result of our having obeyed all the commands). 

The third lesson is how to prepare for the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Christ tells His disciples to wait in Bethany of Jerusalem; to stay together there and not to leave. They are to live in community with one heart and one mind, i.e., they must have one desire, which is to be one with God, and one mind, which is to agree on how to attain that end by obeying all the commands of Christ. To stay within the city without leaving it means to dwell in your mind, examining what is in it to see if anything goes against the commands of Christ. Talking makes one leave one's mind, leave the city. A talkative person will never receive the Indwelling.

The disciples spent their time in spiritual conversations and set aside all worldly concerns; they indulged in praising and worshipping God in the temple. They lived a community life in the strictest sense and did not leave the community life until they deserved to receive the Indwelling. After that, imbibed with Divine Wisdom, they could go out beyond themselves, go outside the city to instruct others.

There are two presence of the Holy Spirit: the first is temporary, by which we are taught how to love our neighbor or how to love God imperfectly, and how to perform our good works well. The second teaches us how to love God perfectly. 

 

 

 

 

(updated 08-08-02)

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                                                                                        - Teresa of Avila

 


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