In the first book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen.
After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. “This,” he said, “is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”
So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?” He replied, “It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
“Why do you stand looking up towards heaven?” the angels ask the disciples just after Jesus’s ascension. I’d like to think that the disciples were just awestruck, stuck staring at the sky asking, “What just happened?!” Called from their fishing and tax-collecting lives into discipleship by this extraordinary man, into three years of rollercoaster ministry before their rabbi was put to death by the Roman state. But then he rose from the dead. And then he appeared to them and encouraged them. And now he was just lifted into the heavens, telling them to wait for the Holy Spirit’s descent. Wait, what?! We would be stuck looking at the sky, too! But we, the Church, two thousand years later, still led by this same Holy Spirit, are invited to still be awestruck.
What part of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, ascension and sending forth of the Spirit moves me the most?
—Garrett Gundlach, SJ is a Jesuit priest of the Midwest Province studying Arabic and interfaith dialogue at the University of Saint Joseph in Beirut, Lebanon.
God of surprises,
Sometimes when I really stop to think about all of this-
Your revelation to Abraham and our ancestors,
Your desire to enter into Covenant with us-
Wild mistake-makers though we are-
Your decision to become human in Jesus,
Your generous and merciful love for every human being through Him,
Your humble acceptance even of death on a cross,
Your resurrection from a death we thought absolute,
Your appearances that encouraged even the hardest hearts,
Your return to the heavens and descent in the form of the Spirit,
Your guidance and inspiration in every age since-
When I really stop to think about all this,
I’m so awestruck I don’t know what I feel or think or believe-
I’m stuck staring at the sky like the disciples.
But I do believe, O Lord, this is why I come to you in prayer,
But deepen my belief, give it a sense of awe and amazement,
An awe and amazement that doesn’t paralyze me but sends me forth,
A loving witness to your love.
—Garrett Gundlach, SJ