Commentary for the Feast of the Ascencion of the Lord
Feast of the Ascension of the Lord
1. And He went up to Heaven
Jesus had completed the mission given to Him. As on the cross he tells us again “All is accomplished. The Father in heaven can be content. He arranged to meet his friends in Galilee before going up into heaven.
Today is the day of the Ascension of our Lord, deep down, the Resurrection, Ascension and Pentecost are the same mystery. To ascend evokes the cosmology of the period, the cosmology of the spheres. The vault of heaven with its light and its immensity is a vivid picture of God’s dwelling.
Christians know it is not about a change of place. It is a change of the way of existence; Jesus finished his earthly life and returned to the Father. This is the belief which we profess each Sunday. “He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. To be together with the Father is to be in the love of the Father.
From that day we, the followers of Jesus know our final goal. It is to be where Jesus is. Today we also long for heaven. “I am a little bit of the earth that is homesick for heaven” (Peman).
2. The Word
The Ascension completes the circle of Jesus’ life. As in some films the conclusion makes sense of the whole story told before. The last words of Jesus are the definitive message. It happened in Galilee, not in Jerusalem. God makes himself present in the space of each day, not in the church, not in a place but in the persons of the Risen Jesus. He does not give us a name but it is a mountain. Christ unveils his person to us on Mount Tabor, his message on the Mount of the Beatitudes and his mission on the mount in Galilee.
Jesus says goodbye to his apostles and reminds them of the synthesis of the Gospel. There is an affirmation. He is the Lord with full power in heaven and on earth, clear that it is the power of the humble and sorrowful servant. He comes then to the command: “Go and make disciples, and he ends with a promise: I am with you. He began his life as Emmanuel – God with us- and finishes promising to stay with us stressing for always and to the end of time.
He could not be more convincing and the disciples stay affected. On arriving in Galilee and seeing Jesus they swim between doubt and joy, between wavering and adoring. They continue to be very human like so many men and women of today with so much desire for God and yet so caught up in the uncertainly and the questions. Even after everything the apostles pass from the master listened to, to the adored Lord, all was very new after the Resurrection. Because of this Jesus commanded them: “You will be my witnesses”. There were still doubts; yes many doubts but they had a sure guarantee: “I am with you.”
The Ascension of the Lord fills us to the brim with hope. If Christ who is the head enters heaven what else can we hope for as members of His body? Jesus opens the way to heaven. We say ourselves that we are going. He went to the house of the Father. Through death we turn to dust but “loved dust” as writer Quevedo says.
On shedding our earthly dwelling we acquire an eternal mansion in heaven sins the liturgy. With audacity and realism we ask ourselves, but do we believe this? Well then it is obvious that the goods of heaven dazzle us more than the human vanities of riches, of pleasures, of power.
The words of Jesus are definitive. Go throughout the world, make disciples, be my witnesses. Because we aspire to Heaven we commit ourselves to the earth. The mission of the Church is to evangelise (Paul VI). We cannot stay in church repeating routinely the same things. Jesus commands us rather that explaining the doctrines to make disciples that are like Him, good, simple, servants, quick to offer their lives for others, even for enemies.
We will certainly weaken many times. But we preach, with thanks the indefectible presence of Jesus. “Whilst he is up there he continues to be with us. Whilst we are here we can be there with Him”. (St. Augustine).
Even knowing our weakness Jesus has confidence in us that is why He sends us.
Finally through an elementary impulse of Jesus’ disciples we also always wish to ascend. To ascend is to grow, to go towards heaven. It is to flee from the vulgar, from the mediocre, the frivolous so as to fill ourselves with ideals, with dreams, utopias. It is to aspire to human fullness of the truth, of freedom, of beauty.
Only in Heaven will we encounter this fullness. So meanwhile we look to heaven where Jesus is drawing us towards what is the most noble, the humane, and the most divine.