ASCENSION OF OUR LORD (Matthew
28:16-20; Mark 16:15-20;
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