“This Jesus who has been taken up from you into Heaven will return in the same way as you have seen him going into Heaven.”
Today is the Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord into Heaven. It is not an easy topic to discuss. It is in some ways much harder to discuss than the Resurrection. Yes, we know that earth is not our final destination. We know that the Lord had to ascend back to where he came from – he had to return home and we all want to return to where we came from. But at times the forty days preceding Pentecost appear confusing. Christ appears and disappears too often. What is going on? Why does the Lord not stay with his disciples? Why is there this constant motion in the Heavens, this coming and going, rising and descending? What does it all mean? Can God, who is all-present, come and go? Isn’t he everywhere? Is God far away from us or is He close to us? The answer is, both. God is far from us, he is totally different from us, and yet, he became one of us, literally, sharing our human condition in all manners except for sin.
The God of Jesus Christ is remarkable and unimaginable. He is more than we could ever imagine, more than any philosopher could ever construct. He is the all-Present, all-Powerful, all-Other and all-Spirit and yet the Lord revealed him as the God of love who makes his presence felt in very powerful and concrete moments in my life. I would compare this to a mom and dad who are always remain, even from a distance, present in their child’s life and yet there are very powerful and concrete moments when they are right in front of their face! God does both. He comes and goes, descends and ascends constantly. He is present throughout the Universe and he makes himself present in front of me, most of often in the ordinary way but also in remarkable ways. He does this because he loves us. This is the God of Jesus Christ, the God of love and love is never overbearing.
What can we learn from Christ’s ascension? It is a part of life. All things come and go. The rain comes and goes; the sun rises and sets; the moon appears and disappears. Life is a constant coming and going of family and friends, tears and joys, success and failures. And yet, it was all worth living! Christ’s success is his ascension into Heaven. He descended, taking the form of a slave, becoming a man subjected to humiliation and death. And it was all worth it. He made it home. Life is worth living! It really is! It’s worth getting up every morning! It’s worth reaching out and touching someone. It’s worth bending both knees and asking for forgiveness. It’s worth dying to self and letting go. Christ did not go away. He showed us THE WAY!
We cannot ascend to the Lord if we do not descend like the Lord. St. Paul tells us, pleads with us, to “live a life worthy of the calling we received”; to imitate the Lord in “humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another lovingly.” (Eph 4:1)
Christ’s victory over pain and suffering, evil and sin, defeat and death is my victory too! I will share in his victory if I persevere in my battles. Seven days after rising from the dead, Christ told Thomas, look at my hands and my feet. Stick your fingers in my side…it is I. Do you see? Do you believe? Do you love me? Then the victory is all yours!
Why Christ’s ascension into glory? Why all this? It’s Always, always for His Apostles, His followers, His believers. The Lord tells us today, I go before you. I will lead you.
The Ascension of our Lord into Heaven means that one day I will belong completely to Him, my God, my Lord, my Savior and my love!