29 May 2022
The Gospel. St. John xv. 26, and part of Chap. xvi.
When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them.
Have you wondered about whether we have entered the Biblical “last days”? Last Thursday, on the Ascension Day, we celebrated the beginning of the end of the world. The world began to end on the day that Jesus Christ ascended into heaven. When we read about this in the Book of Acts, we can stand with His Apostles and witness the event. Our Lord could just as easily have left this world without any appearance of movement and without any witnesses. He chose, instead, to ascend in the sight of the Apostles so that they would understand that not just spirits, but human bodies raised from death and made holy by God have a place in heaven before the Father’s throne. Christ’s Ascension was a promise to the faithful that they would one day follow Him where fallen man has no right to go. Christ’s Ascension also promised the faithful that He would return, as He had left, in glory to judge the living and the dead. The injustices of this world that appear to us to go uncorrected are already judged by the Savior who will return to set every one of them right forever on the Last Day.
St. Luke, in his introduction to the Acts of the Apostles tells us, "while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9). When our Lord Jesus Christ was received into that cloud, he was received into the glory of his Father.
A new, permanent sacrifice for sin, Jesus Christ Himself, had been killed, and that perfect sacrifice of the Son of God made man could not be offered in an earthly sanctuary by an ordinary, sinful human priest as had been done in the Temple in Jerusalem. Until His offering was made, there was no redemption or salvation.
Good Friday and Easter Day are incomplete without Ascension, when the sacrifice is brought into God’s presence and offered to Him. Thus, St. Paul can write: ‘But Christ had become an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands.’ (Hebrews 9:11).
After our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ had made this offering of Himself, He is seated at the right hand of his Father. His being seated tells us, first, that He is enthroned in his Father’s glory. Just as important, we know by this act that the work of salvation is complete. He rests with his Father, in the communion of the Holy Ghost, just as the Blessed Trinity rested on the seventh day when the work of creation was finished.
This one sacrifice of Jesus Christ, once offered, so that there is no other offering for sin ever again, opens the way for us to the Throne of his Father.
Those of us who have been baptized into the death of Jesus Christ, have been given the promise of our own entry into the presence of God. Our chief business, therefore, whatever the other details of our life work may be, is to live out the profession of our faith in Jesus Christ. We are not to waver or to hold back, but to encourage one another to love and good works.
Other people may organize an understanding of history to the contrary, but we Christians understand that there are very few events that truly "change the world." There was the Creation, by which God called the world, including man, into being from nothingness. There was the fall of man, by which we rebelled against God. There was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, followed by His resurrection and ascension, making the one sacrifice that redeems mankind from sin. And there will be the Second Coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead.
Our daily struggles, great and small, are important to God who loves us, even if we do not get into the history books. Only the sacrifice of Jesus Christ saves us. We are in the "last days," and we have been since Jesus Christ was received into the cloud of his Father’s glory. And so we keep the Ascension Day as one of the holiest days in the year, and we watch in prayer waiting on our Lord’s Second Coming in glory.
Source: L. R. Tarsitano—Saint Andrew's Church, Savannah
The Sunday after Ascension Day—June 4, 2000
Almighty God, our heavenly Father, in whose hands are the living and the dead; We give thee thanks for all those thy servants who have laid down their lives in the service of our country. Grant to them thy mercy and the light of thy presence, that the good work which thou hast begun in them may be perfected; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord. Amen.
For The Murdered Children.
O Merciful Father, whose face the angels of thy little ones do always behold in heaven; Grant us steadfastly to believe that these thy children hath been taken into the safe keeping of thine eternal love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
O God, whose most dear Son did take little children into his arms and bless them; Give us grace, we beseech thee, to entrust the souls of these children to thy never failing care and love, and bring us all to thy heavenly kingdom; through the same thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Bishop Edwin Tompkins