St. Luke’s first Book is his Gospel of Jesus Christ, and his second book is the Acts of the Apostles. Acts begins where the Gospel ends, with Jesus’ Ascension into heaven. Jesus entrusts his Kingdom to his Apostles, who set about building his Church. “Wait in Jerusalem,” he told them, “for the ‘promise of the Father,’” because without the Holy Spirit, they would not be capable of laying even one brick in that Church. And so they prayed for nine days, the Church’s first Novena, and the Church’s most fundamental novena. We are in the 3rd day of that novena right now—let us hope and pray for an outpouring of God’s spirit on the Church and the world. If we try to build the Church with our own wisdom, that part of the Church will collapse. Parts of it have collapsed for that reason.
When will you restore the Kingdom?
The Apostles ask if Jesus will restore the Kingdom “at this time,” that is, before he leaves them. After all, establishing the Kingdom was the whole reason he came from heaven, and they thought they’d remind him to finish the job before getting out of town. Jesus tells them, It is not for you to know when and how. Just know that you will receive power from on high to be my witnesses on earth. Jesus could restore the Kingdom, lost when Adam rebelled against God, with a wave of his hand. But he entrusts the work to the eleven remaining disciples, and their successors. Therefore it will be accomplished by fits and starts, through our manifestly imperfect witness—a long process, brick by brick.
Build a Civilization of Love on Earth
Jesus puts the apostles in charge of this building project. They don’t at first grasp the scope of work, and stand gaping at the little patch of sky into which Jesus has disappeared. Two angels call them back to earth: “Men of Galilee, why are you staring at the sky? This Jesus will return someday…” In other words, you’ve got work to do. Stop gawking and get busy. When Jesus returns, he expects to find a kingdom built and ready to receive him. Clothed with the Holy Spirit, you must witness to all that you have seen and heard.
I remember Blessed John Paul II’s words to us in France at World Youth Day 1997. 1.2 million young people had camped out at Longchamps racetrack, about ten miles from downtown Paris. He thanked us for coming, he encouraged us to keep our faith, to pray, to confess our sins, and then he said—his last words--edifier une civilization de l’amour! Go and build a civilization of love! His words, and his personal witness to Christ, set a million souls on fire. “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature,” Jesus tells his disciples. And indeed, they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them, confirming the word through his miracles.
Building a Kingdom of Heaven
The Church we are in today is proof of the ardent zeal of those first disciples, and the generations of disciples since them. We must build on what they have built, for the Kingdom of God must be restored and confirmed by every generation. We are witnessing to his sacrifice on Calvary, his resurrection, and his ascension. We must witness to Christ, alive and reigning. We witness that our own bodies will be restored, swept up into a manner of being that knows no decay, no sin, no sadness. We are witnessing to eternal life, beyond what modern man can see, and buy, and sell, and manufacture.
In this month of May, we witness not only to the ascension of Christ, but to the assumption of Our Lady. She is the first to follow him into that Realm. This aspiration for heaven must drive us forward with joy when life seems very dark. Jesus went before us; Our Lady has gone before us. Let us follow them by building His kingdom on earth, which one day will become his perfect Kingdom in Heaven.