Ascension to Pentecost: Clothed with power from on High

By Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.
Before ascending from this world to his God and our God Jesus instructed his disciples to return to the Upper Room to await “to be clothed with power from on High.” (Luke 24: 49) To be outfitted with the Holy Spirit is a wonderful image of our intimacy with God and by wearing it well we remain in style to bear the message of salvation to every corner of the planet till the end of time.

The feast of the Ascension is the bridge between the Resurrection and Pentecost that completes God’s plan of salvation begun specifically in the Incarnation when “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

Bishop Joseph R. Kopacz, D.D.

Throughout the Gospel of John, it is uppermost in Jesus’ mind that he is to return to God the Father from where he came. “No one has ascended to heaven except the One who descended from heaven.” (John 3:13)

At the outset of the Last Supper before the washing of the disciples’ feet, his divine destiny was set in motion. “Before the feast of Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to pass from this world to the Father. He loved his own in this world and loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)

On course, the link between the Cross, the resurrection and the ascension is established. “Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.” (John 3:14-15)

The Lord’s resurrection appearances in the four Gospels are remarkable, and yet shrouded in mystery. These encounters reveal the risen Lord in his glorified body, capable of eating (Luke 24:43) and of being touched (John 20:27) and of conversing in varied settings, on the road, at the beach, in the garden, in barricaded rooms and on mountaintops.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church in the first of its four major sections (Can we name the other three sections?) reflects upon the Ascension in the context of the Creed. (CCC 659-667) The transition of the risen Lord in his glorified body after the resurrection to his exalted body with his Ascension to the right hand of the Father forever (CCC 660) clears the way for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in daily life and prepares a place for us in eternity.

“Only Christ could have opened this door for the human race, he who wished to go before us as our head so that we as members of his body may live with the burning hope of following him in His Kingdom.” (CCC 661)

St. Paul in his pastoral letter to Timothy elaborates upon our understanding of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit from on High. “For the Spirit God gives us is not one of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2Tim 1:7)

Power, directed by loving discipline has the capacity to transform lives and to carry out the Lord’s Great Commission to bear the Gospel to all the nations. This is the power of God that forms the Church as One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic, that all receive at Baptism, that is invoked upon our numerous young people who have been confirmed, that transforms the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of the Lord, and that we will call down upon Deacon Tristan Stovall and all who will be ordained in sacred orders.

As we heard in last Sunday’s first reading, the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius and his household, the first Gentile converts, truly a second Pentecost, came about through ardent prayer and joyful hope. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is at work in our homes and in our churches.

May we be vigilant in prayer and joyful in hope as we prepare to be clothed with power from on High this Pentecost for the promises of the Lord are fulfilled in every generation.