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05/25/17 Ascension - Fr. Damian

Does the Solemnity of the Ascension have meaning for us today? Or was it simply a historical event that happened two thousand years ago? Is it essential to our faith and our salvation?

We find the answer to these questions in today’s Scripture readings and the Apostles Creed Prayer.

 

First, the Ascension is about Jesus returning into the Father's glory and what that means for the human race. Jesus' Ascension reminds us that now He cannot be captured by any one country. He is Lord of all the nations. He is no longer bound to any one language. He can be reached in any language. He is not owned by any one culture. He can be part of all cultures.

As the Letter to the Ephesians says, "He fills the universe in all its parts." The Ascension means that Jesus is the universal Lord. Every part of this world comes within His redeeming, healing embrace.

 

Second, the Ascension is not just about Jesus' absence but about a different kind of presence. Jesus leaves in a dramatic way enveloped by the cloud to emphasize that from now on He will be with us in a new kind of way, not visually but in His spiritual, sacramental presence. Our experience of Christ is not like that of the disciples who saw Him, touched Him and ate with Him. Our experience of the Risen Lord is like that of the billions since then who have not seen with their eyes but have real contact with Christ through faith, the sacraments, prayer and the life of the Church. That is why Jesus gives the great commission to spread the Gospel. People will now encounter Jesus through the life of the Church. He is with us with the same redeeming power and cleansing love as He was with the Apostles but in a different way.

 

Finally, the Ascension is not only about Jesus but also about us. Where Jesus is now we hope someday to be. Although the life journey for each of us is different, our destination is the same, union with God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

For some people that journey may be short or long. It may have much suffering and challenge. It may be difficult and demanding. We should be united by 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. It is not the whole truth. 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. St. Thomas Aquinas calls it our "patria," our true homeland. Where Jesus now is, we hope someday to be.

The Ascension, this neglected mystery, teaches us some powerful truths in whose light we should live: Jesus is the universal Christ, 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 and the stars; in Christ, we will share the very life and eternity of God.

 

Because Jesus returned to the Father and sent the Holy Spirit, He is more than an example. He is now close to every one of us. That is why after the Ascension, the Apostles returned to the Temple praising God and that is why we are here today.

 

The Ascension is not about absence but about the new, spiritual presence of Christ to all of us, wherever we are, through the Holy Spirit. Now, the Risen Jesus is as close to us as the beating of our heart.

 

The Ascension means that Jesus is gone from our sight but not from our life.

 

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