This coming Sunday is the 7th Sunday of Ordinary Time, but in almost all of the dioceses of the United States, as allowed, the Solemnity of the Ascension is transferred from its traditional Thursday celebration to the following Sunday, replacing 7th Easter. The readings are taken from St. Luke’s Gospel and his Acts of the Apostles. Both the first reading and the gospel are accounts of the Ascension, making this event the linchpin between the two works of St. Luke. I will attempt to cover both during the course of the week.
One of the many connecting threads between the two books is on the missionary journeys. Luke’s Gospel had put a unique stress on Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem as the foundational mission of the Messiah. (Luke 9:51 to the end of the book.) Acts tells how Jesus’ disciples received his Holy Spirit and continued his work after he ascended into heaven. Much of Acts is a travelog, following the Christian missionaries, especially Paul, as they spread God’s word outward from Jerusalem.
The Gospel of Luke is the first part of a two-volume work that continues the biblical history of God’s dealings with humanity found in the Old Testament, showing how God’s promises to Israel have been fulfilled in Jesus and how the salvation promised to Israel and accomplished by Jesus has been extended to the Gentiles. The stated purpose of the two volumes is to provide Theophilus and others like him with certainty—assurance—about earlier instruction they have received (Lk 1:4). To accomplish his purpose, Luke shows that the preaching and teaching of the representatives of the early church are grounded in the preaching and teaching of Jesus, who during his historical ministry (Acts 1:21-22) prepared his specially chosen followers and commissioned them to be witnesses to his resurrection and to all else that he did (Acts 10:37-42). This continuity between the historical ministry of Jesus and the ministry of the apostles is Luke’s way of guaranteeing the fidelity of the Church’s teaching to the teaching of Jesus. (The Gospel According to Luke – Introduction at USCCB.com)
The Acts of the Apostles, the second volume of Luke’s two-volume work, continues Luke’s presentation of biblical history, describing how the salvation promised to Israel in the Old Testament and accomplished by Jesus has now under the guidance of the Holy Spirit been extended to the Gentiles. This was accomplished through the divinely chosen representatives (Acts 10:41) whom Jesus prepared during his historical ministry (Acts 1:21-22) and commissioned after his resurrection as witnesses to all that he taught (Acts 1:8; 10:37-43; Luke 24:48). Luke’s central message is that the Christian community is the Spirit-guided bearer of the word of salvation.