focus of the day:

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ACTS 1 : 1 - 11
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Life in the Spirit: THE SOURCE OF HOPE.

     Matthew and Mark conclude their gospel accounts with the sending on a mission. Disciples preach the "good news" by testifying about their meeting with the risen Christ. Their accounts are the result of their new understanding of the words and deeds of Jesus. They become involved with the event they are reporting. And they make it their own. Jesus "opened their minds to understand the scriptures." This is why, "after His suffering He presented Himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the reigning of God. Thus they witness to the reigning of a culture of life.
     But perceiving the significance of events is not enough. Disciples have to assume the responsibilities that witnessing involves. Luke insists on the absence of Jesus, while disciples bear witness to Him. Jesus has left them in charge of His mission, which is now their responsibility to pursue 'on earth'. The Son ascends 'into heaven' at the right hand of the Father. Its the absence of someone who is alive. Not the absence of a dead person. This is why Jesus sends "what the Father has promised" - the Spirit.
     The Spirit will help disciples like us make Jesus, the living One, present in the midst of a reality made up of: selfishness; of undue privileges; of the arrogance of political and religious power; of indifference towards the poor; and of hunger. In other words, the reality of the reigning of a culture of death!

the first reading:

A summary of the life of Jesus which provides a smooth transition from Luke's earlier gospel to this second work of reporting the "good news" in the activities of Jesus' apostles. The ascending of Jesus is mentioned. The same narrative that completes the account of Jesus' ministry in the gospel now serves to launch an account of the new stage of the community's life.

ACTS 1 : 1 - 11

     The Christian church began with the community formed by Jesus with his disciples. But in the present, the community lives with the absence of the historical Jesus. Jesus' former mode of presence has ended. A community of disciples must recognize Jesus' presence in a new way - and assume responsibility to continue the risen Jesus' mission (v.8).
     In Luke's theology, the ascending of Jesus (v.9) serves to explain the community's life and mission. The forty days, during which the risen Christ instructed his disciples (v.3) evokes the formative forty years the Hebrew people sojourned in the desert; and Jesus' forty days of testing. Jesus had told his disciples not to leave Jerusalem - but to await there the Father's promised Spirit (v.4a). Jesus had cautioned the disciples against any preoccupation with the exact timing of the restoration of God's reigning (v.7).
     The geography of the disciples' mission is mapped out(v.8) and there follows a symbolic statement of Jesus' going away (vv.9-10). Thus Luke states the ending of Jesus' missionary work was not His death - but His departure from history as a living person. The prospect of His return (v.11) introduces a healthy tension into the community's life as the disciples move towards completing God's new reigning.

the response:

The Christian community had no language of it's own through which it could express what was inexpressible - for that reason, it relied on it's ancient tradition of praise - the Hebrew psalms!

PSALM 47 : 1 - 2, 5 - 8

     The psalm breaks out beyond reasoned explanation into wonder, awe, amazement and gratitude. It is in the Christian community's worship, that the newness given by God, is voiced. That worship leads to joyful affirmation that the world is strangely open to God's new reigning.
     The speaker invites praising YHWH the ruler of all the earth, who now properly reigns. All are called to this praising because YHWH reigns over all peoples. "God goes up" (v.5) means God ascends the throne. The speaker summons, "all you peoples"(v.1) to celebrate the power, authority and sovereignty of YHWH as, "Most High" - a name that all people can recognise (vv.2-4). The language describes an act of enthronement.
     The speaker repeats the call to, "sing praises" four times in the light of the new world situation (vv.8-9). Around the throne sit all the obedient, glad peoples. Around the throne there is no conflict, dispute, or challenge, to the authority of YHWH. The ultimate vision of the holy city is for all peoples to become, "the People of God"(Is.2:2-4). In the Christian scriptures, this way of stating the new world reality, suggests that all people will be brought under the reigning of God - but not all by the way of Jesus for there are other valued sheep, which "are not of this fold".(Jn.10:16)

the second reading:

The brief reference to the ascending of Jesus in the Letter to the Ephesians, functions as part of the author's general theme of praise about God's actions in Christ, on behalf of humankind.

EPHESIANS 1 : 17 - 23

     The ascending of Jesus signals the empowerment of the Christian community. It's life is linked to the 'heavenly' Christ whom God has made ruler of all things and head of the community (vv.22-23). The author prays that the, "Father of glory" will grant the Ephesian Christians a clear knowledge of God's reigning through the risen Jesus(vv.17-21).
     The author wants God to enlighten Christian disciples at Ephesus with the hope that is their birthright! Only then they will be able to appreciate the power-for-life this hope inspires. The power derived from this hope is compared to the powerful raising by God of Jesus to glory (v.19b-21). It is an appropriate comparison to make, because the object of a disciple's hope is in Christ's new life. The divine power is reflected infaithful disciples as a pledge of their future inheritance. Christ has already received hope's promise in full. As Christ's body,the Christian community is sure of the hope that is made real in the One who, "has ascended" to head their community.

the Gospel:

Jesus continues His farewell talk to His disciples. He is understood by them to be the visible presence of God among humanity - the person who establishes a new covenant with them.

LUKE 24 : 46 - 53

     Jesus had indicated He would reveal Himself to His disciples but not to the world. "The world" meant those who cannot recognise the Spirit of truth (cf (Jn.14:17-21). The disciples had anticipated a general revelation.
     In their name, Judas (not Iscariot) asks why Jesus would limit His self-revelation to His circle of disciples. In the Hebrew tradition the holy Spirit is the spirit of YHWH, which is the same as saying the spirit of justice and liberation. It is the spirit of YHWH that spoke through the prophets proclaiming the truth. When Jesus came, the world was full of falsehoods, myths and deceptions because it was full of injustices. Somewhere else the author identifies truth with love. Jesus' answer to Judas is that those who don't act in His spirit (ie. follow His commands) will not be able to understand Him.
     In is the spirit of Jesus that will remind disciples of His practice. It is the Spirit that reminds us what is in the scriptures we comment on, and which has often been forgotten! Jesus knew that His message was going to be forgotten. The holy Spirit of God, the revolutionary inspiration that exists in the world, is going to adopt the role of advocate or Paraclete, to remind disciples of Jesus' words.
&nbps;    The Hebrews used to greet one another with Shalom and Jesus is saying farewell. He wishes harmony and happiness to disciples who imitate His practice. He wishes for them the happiness of people who are free from all oppression. Among the Hebrews shalom was understood as the enjoyment of the harmony of a united people It was something similar to our word communion! It had been announced by the prophets that the Messiah would bring a permanent reigning of peace. Even animals would be at peace among themselves! All would live in harmony and humanity would be again at peace with God.
     In the Hebrew scriptures heaven is not a place outside the world. YHWH was Creator of heaven as well as the earth. There is a saying in Jesus reported in Matthew's gospel where He affirms that the earth is as sacred as heaven: "Do not swear at all; either by heaven, since that is God's throne; or by earth, since that is God's footstool."(Mt.5:34-35a NJB). Heaven was God's throne and Earth was the platform for God's feet! Jesus doesn't say that He is going to heaven. He says He is going to the Father and adds that He will be coming back from there. In the period after the resurrection, Jesus' life is the source of the diciples' life together. When life in Jesus' Spirit has been received, His followeres will recognise that it is a life mutually shared by "Father" and "Son." The condition for sharing in the indwelling of the Father and Son, is practising Jesus' Word of love. The one who loves is the one who practises the Truth. Those who follow Jesus' commandment to love are assured of a new life in God's reigning.

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