Gist: The Ascension of Christ is not about His absence, but His continuing presence with us. The goal is for us to be with Him where He is. But we have a mission to proclaim the Gospel with the way we live.
Today we celebrate the feast of the Ascension of our Lord, which occurred forty days after His resurrection.
For forty days Jesus appeared to his apostles in His glorified Body, and gave them final information and instructions before leaving their company.
In Jerusalem there is what is called the Ascension Chapel which the faithful traditionally believe to be the spot where Jesus ascended into heaven. It houses a slab of stone believed to contain one of his footprints. The chapel is on the Mount of Olives close to where He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.
The first reading from Luke tells us that as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took Him from their sight.
The Ascension of Jesus is not His physical ascending to the skies like a space vehicle is thrust and goes on a journey to space. The Ascension of Jesus is His passing out of our dimension of space and time into a higher and different realm/dimension that transcends the limitations of space and time.
The ascension does not mean also that Jesus abandoned us or became absent from us. It is true that we cannot experience Christ like His disciples who saw Him, listened to him, touched Him, walked with Him and ate with Him. But He remains present in the world although in a different way. He is alive in our midst, no longer in a specific place in the world as He was before the Ascension. He is now at the right hand of the Father, but He is present in every space and time, close to each one of us.
In His divine wisdom, Jesus found a way of being present to us in a special way -- sacramentally - - in the Holy Eucharist, where He is present, not visually, but in a real way -- Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. We even receive Him in our bodies in Holy Communion, a most intimate union with Him.
He is also present in the other sacraments, in our prayer life and in the life of the Church. That is why we are gathered at this Sacrifice of the Mass at least weekly to worship, give thanks and draw grace and strength from Him to help and guide us in our daily life. Because Jesus sent the Holy Spirit, we have an Advocate who guides us and defends us.
Finally, the Ascension is not only about the continuing presence of Jesus. It is, very importantly, also about us. Where Jesus is now we hope someday to be. He said: “I am going to prepare a place for you.”
Jesus is the Head of His Church and we are his members. As he has ascended into heaven we are also in our stage of our own ascension where the Church is.
Although the life journey of each of us is different, our destination is the same: union with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is what we call heaven.
For some people that journey may be short or long. It may have much suffering and challenge, although in different degrees for each of us. It may be difficult and demanding, like we all are experiencing. But we should be united in knowing that we are all striving to arrive at the same destination.
Our life here on earth does not fully define who we are. It is not a complete picture. We have an immense glory ahead of us -- to be where Jesus is. Heaven is not some alien place but our true home, the place for which we strive and yearn in so many subtle ways, like St. Augustine expresses as restless hearts that can only rest until they rest in God. St. Thomas calls it our “patria,” our true homeland. Where Jesus now is with the Father, we hope and yearn someday to be.
The Ascension teaches us some powerful truths that should guide us in our lives: Jesus is King of the Universe, Redeemer of the whole world. We have a future larger and more enduring than this world. We will last longer than the mountains, the sun, the planets and the stars. In Christ, we will share the very life and eternity of God.
However, it is important to remember that while we wait and prepare for Christ to return, we are not supposed to remain idle. That is, we are not to continue gazing endlessly at the skies like the apostles did at the scene of the ascension. Instead, we are expected to go – to perform and continue the mission that Christ has called us to do.
Today’s Gospel reminds us of the mandate of Christ: “Go out into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation…”
This means that we not only have to live good lives ourselves, but to spread the values of Christ to others, by word and example, starting with our families, with our children, and wherever we are. It is a common observation that many of our children have lost whatever faith they had when they go to high school or college because they are easily influenced by the unbelieving culture/environment.
The world as we know has deteriorated in faith, even becoming hostile to it. Now, evil has become not only acceptable but encouraged and even legislated, and the good is stifled, criticized and forbidden. If we ourselves who still have faith will not do something, our world will continue to deteriorate, and risk the salvation of the souls of many. The kingdom of God will not be built up as Christ commands us to do.
Surely, we cannot afford to fail Christ in this call. Because if we fail, we also fail ourselves.
So, as we rejoice today that Christ has ascended into heaven so that he can be present in the whole world, and as we hope in his second coming to take us with him, we must work hard to fulfill His mandate to us.
This is how our own ascension to heaven to be eternally with him will be fulfilled and realized. #