24 May 2020 Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
“The Ascension of the Lord … What is the Message?”
Dear Brothers and sisters, Good Evening.
Today we joyfully celebrate the Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is said that “Easter promises us our immortality. Ascension tells us where we hope to spend that immortal life.” In other words, the Resurrection of Jesus promises us that we also will rise after our death to an eternal life. At the Ascension Jesus went to heaven so we too when we rise will go to heaven. The New Testament treats the ascension as an integral part of the Easter event. Resurrection and the Ascension reflect the meaning of two aspects of a single, indivisible Easter event. The Gospels contain many parables of a master who sets out on a long journey and gives his servants charge of his estate until his return. The Parable of the wicked tenants (Mt.21:33-46) and the Parable of the Talents (Mt.25:14-30) are examples. Each of the Gospels ends with a scene in which Jesus departs to his heavenly Father and leaves his disciples in charge of the affairs of his kingdom till his return in glory. In these farewell scenes the gospel writers are more concerned with transmitting a message.
So what is the message? The message is that (a) the Ascension leads us to reflect on majesty of the ascended Jesus. (b) Jesus gave his disciples a mission, a task to engage them till he returns in glory, and (c) he assured them of divine assistance in the carrying out of this mission, and (d) to live a life of Christian joy in the presence of the ascended Lord.
- At first, the Ascension leads us to reflect on majesty of the ascended Jesus. We heard in the First Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, that “After saying this, he was taken up to heaven as they watched him, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” This cloud was no ordinary cloud; it signified the divine presence of God. The same cloud that led the people of Israel in the wilderness, the same cloud that covered Mt Sinai, the same cloud that settled on the Mount of Transfiguration. Again and again in the Bible, clouds indicate the presence of God. Jesus being lifted up into this cloud represents his exaltation to the highest place again as the eternal, transcendent God, one with the Trinity. He who “humbled himself and became obedient unto death” is now the exalted Lord of all.
- Jesus gave his disciples a mission and a task: In the First Reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, we heard the advice of the angels after Jesus’ Ascension, who said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?” We are not to stand around gazing into the skies, calculating Jesus’ return. In the Gospel Jesus entrusted his mission to the Apostles saying, “Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” We are to be proclaimers and evangelizers: It is our task to relieve suffering, to end war, to remove ignorance, to heal wounds, to eliminate divisions, to promote understanding, to spread love, to cause justice. we must drive out the demons that hold people in their addicting clutches; we must embrace all people with the merciful love of God. We preach with words but we proclaim with our lives.
- Jesus assured them of divine assistance in the carrying out this mission. With his return to the Father, Jesus completes his mission on earth. His apparent withdrawal at the Ascension does not mean his absence from us, but rather His new presence in us and in the Church, in a more powerful manner. He is present in the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion and in the tabernacle where the Eucharist is reserved for our adoration. Jesus is with us at all times and in all places, releasing a new energy upon the earth, the energy of the Holy Spirit.
- Let the ascended Jesus be our source of strength and encouragement: When our pains and sufferings, trials and temptations are too heavy to bear, especially as we are still in the pandemic of coronavirus, we must remember that Christ will come again in glory to reward us with his own heavenly glory. Let us have our Christian conviction that the risen and ascended Jesus is present in us, blessing us in every moment of our lives. Thus he is the source of our strength and encouragement.
- To live a life of Christian joy in the presence of the ascended Lord. As Jesus ascended from earth to heaven, the disciples “returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” While in heaven he is also with us, and while on earth we are with him. He is here with us by his divinity, his power and his love. Our earthly liturgy, the celebration of the Eucharist, connects us with the heavenly liturgy where millions of holy men and women and myriads of angels always sing “Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.” We know heaven is a place of eternal joy, happiness, truth, beauty, peace, and love. We pray every day that: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” For this we have to die to our sinfulness and rise with Jesus to a new life. Let us pray that the celebration of the Ascension of the Lord takes us to heaven, its peace and joy in this life itself.
May God bless you and your family.