The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
The author of Luke and Acts places a great deal of emphasis on the veracity of his writings. At the beginning of his Gospel, he clearly states that he has gone over all the material to hand and has written an ordered account of what has happened. So it is somewhat disconcerting for us to discover that there is a major difference between his two accounts of the Ascension both of which are readings for this feast. In the text from Acts, Jesus ascends 40 days after the Resurrection. In the Gospel, though it is not clear in the lectionary text, Jesus ascends on the night of his Resurrection after having appeared to the disciples as a group. One can hardly accuse the author of being confused as these two accounts appear side by side in the single text of Luke-Acts. With such a discrepancy, we are made to realise that the theological truth that Luke is teaching is not dependent on historical ‘facts’ as we appreciate them. We need to look at the meaning of the elements of the story as they are presented in their own context. Broadly speaking, the Gospel of Luke is the story of Jesus on earth. The Book of Acts is the story of the beginnings of the Church.
In the Gospel, the Ascension of Jesus on the night of the Resurrection underlines the fact that these two events are intimately united. The raising of Jesus from death to a glorified life, ‘see-able’ by the disciples, is only an aspect of his raising to glory with the Father. With his Ascension of Easter night, we are told that his earthly life here is concluded and now the time has come for his salvation to be preached by his disciples to the world. In a few short dense sentences, Jesus summarises how his life and death fulfilled the Scriptures, how the disciples, by what they had seen and experienced, were his witnesses. Now the Holy Spirit, the power by which he fulfilled his ministry and whom he proclaimed in his first preaching (see Lk 4:18) is to be given to these disciples that they might preach to the world the salvation that has been given. Jesus leads them out to Bethany – the place where he had entered Jerusalem as king. From this place, he enters heaven to take up the true kingship that belongs to him. Indeed, for the first time in the Gospel, the disciples are said to worship Jesus. They then return to Jerusalem, spending their time in the Temple, worshipping God. Luke’s Gospel account began with Zechariah and the people worshiping in the Temple. Now it concludes in that same Temple in a similar expectant stance.