VATICAN CITY (Catholic Online) – Amongst the events during Jesus’ earthly life, His ascension into heaven must number amongst those that arouse most interest. Without understanding this mystery in depth, His Apostles gave an extraordinary account of this event and could no longer turn their gaze from the heavens: ‘Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky?’ (Acts 1:11).
As with the Lord’s first followers, man’s gaze is towards the dizzy heights of knowledge without ever being able to find a response that corresponds to the expectations of the heart. In this sense, Christ’s ascension could be interpreted as an abandonment of His disciples by their good Master.
He presented Himself as the holder of the ‘living water’ from which they would never thirst again, (Cfr Jn 4:14) and He gave them the hope of seeing the ‘reign of Israel’ restored, which was Paradise on earth, and then He rose into heaven not to return again until the end of time.
However, as we have heard in St Matthew’s Gospel, by ascending into heaven the Lord had not abandoned His Church: ‘And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age’ (Mt 28:20).
Let us, instead, welcome the Lord’s ascension as an event through which He has definitively received ‘all authority in heaven and on earth.’ (Mt 28:18) Let us welcome it as the start of the definitive fulfilment of the question of man’s whole existence because it is in the ‘ascension of Jesus’ that ‘we may follow Him’ to be beside the Father (Cfr Collect).
Therefore, the ascension is that great manifestation of our certainty that we will live with Christ in glory, in happiness and our hearts will find a fulfilment that will never end!
Now, we all live in ‘hope’ (Cfr. Collect)! The virtue of hope is like the motor that allows us to move forward every day, sometimes in difficult and sorrowful situations, with that same boldness that the Apostles had who were willing to die in order to put into practice the Lord’s commands.
On the one hand, the Church exists to anticipate and realise on earth that happiness that we can only entirely possess in heaven. On the other hand, the community of believers is also the place in which we are all called, as far as we can, to testify not only in ‘Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria’ (Acts 1:9) but also ‘to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:9).
Therefore, we must not be afraid of the fact that the Lord has risen into heaven, but after contemplating Him rising to the Father, we must turn our gaze back to the earthly realities. We must be certain to discern in the signs of His sweet Presence and, with joy, we must work in the Lord’s vineyard because through the action of the Holy Spirit, in it and in us, we will grow fruit acceptable to God (Cfr. Jn 15:2)
Ac 1.1-11 : www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/en/9absila.htm
Ep 1.17-23 : www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/en/9axhhka.htm
Mt 28.16-20 : www.clerus.org/bibliaclerusonline/en/9ayx2s1.htm
- By Congregation for the Clergy
- Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)