Pondering St. Luke’s description of Christ’s disciples immediately after the Ascension–”[They] returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Lk. 24:52)–Pope Benedict XVI commented: “That does not quite correspond to our normal psychology.”
How can it be that the disciples were full of joy when once again their Lord and Master was going where they could not immediately follow?
After the excruciating separation and loss experienced on Calvary, then three days of incomparable grief, the event of the Resurrection surpassed and conquered the sorrow within them. And for forty days the disciples walked with Him in the midst of His glory.
In what seems counterintuitive to human experience, as the Lord departed from them, His followers were ignited by joy. “Jesus has indeed gone away this time,” Benedict taught, “not into death, but into life.”
Having opened up the Scriptures for His friends, having shared the Eucharistic supper with them, and promising the presence of the Holy Spirit, Christ the Lord ascended into heaven with His disciples gazing both upward and outward.
Their hearts must have been lifted higher as they longed to be drawn closer to their Beloved, but having been instructed by Him to make disciples of all nations, their steps were quickened; the task was urgent.
Inspired by the joy of the first disciples, may we who have studied Christ’s Word, partaken in the Eucharist, and experienced the power of the Holy Spirit be faithful to the Great Commission, keeping our focus toward the Ascended Lord and our feet firmly on the ground.
And may the joy that was the identifying feature of those disciples approaching Jerusalem also be the mark we bear in the world today.