In the First Reading, we see the final scene of Luke’s Gospel, set just before Jesus ascends into Heaven.
Before his Ascension, Jesus tells his disciples to eventually go into all the nations (Luke 24:44-53), serving their role as Jesus’ witnesses, taking the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and doing so with the blessing and strength of the Holy Spirit. In that scene, Jesus’ words are both a command and a promise that their mission will be accomplished with the gift of the Holy Spirit. In a sense, the entire book of Acts can be seen as Jesus leaving his role for the Holy Spirit to fill, as from that point on the Holy Spirit is the one who empowers the followers of the Church so they can carry out God’s plan. Jesus’ Ascension was necessary, as only when he is no longer physically present on earth can his Spirit be poured out onto his disciples. Thus, in the power of the Spirit, the disciples are now true witnesses.
As witnesses, the disciples (and we too, as modern day followers of Jesus) belong to Jesus and have a responsibility to proclaim his good works and lessons. At the same time, not only must we give verbal testimony, but we must also be living examples, and live our lives as Jesus would. We must abide by his lessons of love and forgiveness, to treat one another as brothers and sisters and not as the hated “other”.
Jesus’ Ascension is more than a scene of his departure. In fact, it would be a mistake to view the Ascension as Christ leaving us. Instead, we should understand that he has left us with hope, promise, and fulfillment. When we finally ascend to heaven ourselves, we need to understand that we also ascend to Jesus Christ and enter into him.