Fulfill your baptismal commission to share the Spirit • May 18, 2020

Feast of the Ascension, Acts 1:1-11; Eph 1:17-23, Mt 28:16-20

In their book “Resurrecting Easter,” John and Sarah Crosson discuss the difference between the Eastern and Western views of the Resurrection of Jesus as depicted in icons and images. The Western view is that of an individual event. All the Western images and icons of the Resurrection depict Jesus coming from the grave by himself.

The Eastern view of the Resurrection is that of an event that involves many people. The icons and images in the Eastern Church show Jesus bringing people with him from the dead, including Adam and Eve at the front of the line.

Regardless of which view you hold, the message that Christ has risen from the dead is meant for everyone for all time. Jesus died for all people; he rose from the dead for all people.

Just as the Resurrection of Jesus is for all people, so too is the Ascension. The Ascension has special significance for us because it adds to the message of Jesus’ ministry. Both versions of the Ascension that we hear on this feast — one in the reading from Acts and one in the Gospel — mention the baptism of the Spirit.

In the Gospel, Jesus says “all power in heaven and earth have been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son and in the name of the holy Spirit.”

In Acts, Jesus tells those gathered they will be baptized in the Spirit and that when they are born again in the Spirit, they will receive power. This reflects the teaching of Jesus early in his ministry.In his interaction with Nicodemus, Jesus says that unless a person is born again of water and the Spirit, they cannot have eternal life (Jn 3:3-5).

The message is clearly a charge for the early followers of Jesus. In the New American Bible, St. Joseph Edition, this section of the Gospel is titled the “The Commissioning of the Disciples.” To commission someone is to give them certain powers or authority. In this passage Jesus commissions his disciples, giving them power to convey this same Spirit, this same new life to not just a few but to the whole world.

This is a message for us as well. By virtue of being baptized in water in the name the Father, Son and Spirit, we have the same commission. Everyone who has been baptized has received this same Spirit, the same power to lift people up to new life. Those of us who have been confirmed have been strengthened in that Spirit. Just like those early disciples of Jesus we have the power and authority to share God’s Spirit.

The physical presence of Jesus may not be with us but we need not be afraid. Jesus said, “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Mt 28:20). He remains with all of us who have been baptized and he lives within us in the Spirit.

What can we do with the Spirit and Jesus living within us? How can we help those who are isolated or lonely?How can we help people who are in need for whatever reason?

We have been given the command to go out to all the world and share that Spirit of God. How can we share God’s love which Jesus has shared with us?

Deacon Christopher Colville serves at Church of the Redeemer, Mechanicsville.

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