Solemnity of the Ascension. May 28th, 2017
Today we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Ascension of our Lord into heaven. When we pray the Rosary, the Ascension as you know is mentioned as the second Glorious Mystery. As we announce, and with the help of the Virgin Mary, contemplate, the Mystery of the Ascension, we pray for an increase in the grace of Hope—not a “hope for,” or “maybe,” but a sure and certain hope known as Theological Hope, a supernatural hope which comes from God alone.
Celebrating the Solemnity of the Ascension with faith, strengthens and nourishes our Hope that one day, if we remain faithful Disciples of Christ by keeping His Holy Word and His commandments, especially His great Commandment of Love (To one another as He as loved us by living the teachings of the Catholic Church), we will really and truly join Him in heaven with the Father and the Holy Spirit, along with the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and all the saints. For as Jesus has taken His human nature, that is, His human body and soul to heaven, so too someday He wishes to take to heaven, not only in soul, but in body as well, all those who love Him—that is, those who love Him not only in word but in deed.
Christ has gone before us into heaven and so we know that we are called there as well; this is the source of our hope in this present life, which is so often a valley of tears. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI once wrote, when speaking about the Ascension of our Lord:
"The meaning of Christ's Ascension expresses our belief that in Christ, the humanity we share (with Him) has entered in the inner life of God in a new and hitherto unheard of way. It means that man has found an everlasting place in God.”.....
And so, Benedict goes on to say:
"we go to heaven to the extent we go to Jesus Christ and enter into him."
We could replace the word “heaven” in the pope’s comment with the word hope. In other words, we have hope to the extent, “we go to Jesus Christ and enter into him.”
But how do we go to Jesus and enter into Him? Again, as I said a few weeks ago, is it through merely believing in Him? Is it, as the born again Christians say, by accepting Him as our Personal Savior? Is it by merely calling upon is Holy name? While these are important aspects of our going to Jesus Christ and entering into Him, they are short of how we do this in the fullest sense? In other words, enter into Jesus becoming literally one with Him and through Him, one with the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
It is the Ascension of our Blessed Lord that gives us the answer to how?. So let ask the the spouse of the Holy Spirit the Blessed Virgin Mary to obtain for us the help not only to understand more deeply the Ascension and to see its relevance in our daily life but to put its saving power into effect in our life and in the lives of the members of our families.
First of all, I think one of the mistakes that we can make in our understanding about Christ’s ascension into heaven is to think that He is no longer with us here on earth. This wrong way of thinking can make heaven can seem light years away, especially when we face the turmoil, suffering and monotony of this present life, all of which try to robe us of peace. But when we understand the Ascension correctly we discover that our religion is not irrelevant, it is not a pie-in-the-sky religion where concern and active desire for heaven replaces the reality of our present situation of struggle and difficulties. No our Catholic Christian religion shows us that mysteriously, heaven is already present in our midst, already present in this present “darkness.”
Now, truly at the right hand of the Father, Jesus constantly intercedes for us at this very moment, attaining for us the Power—the Grace, to be his true disciples here on earth by loving God and loving neighbor with Jesus’ own divine love alive in our souls. But Jesus is not literally “at the Right hand of the Father,” as God the Father has no physical body. At the “right hand of the Father,” means that now ascended into heaven in His humanity, in His human body, Jesus shares all authority and power with His Father; He is equal to the Father. And so with the Father, the power and glory of Jesus’ divinity, which was, is and always will be equal to the Father, now shines through His resurrected body. In other words, Jesus divinity which was always present at the “Right hand of the Father, now shines through, is visible through, His sacred and now glorified Humanity which now too is present at the Right Hand of the Father .
In heaven, Christ, as true God and true Man, is constantly acting, interceding to bring to us that divine power--that grace and mercy, forgiveness and love we need in order to follow Him by loving as He loves us. And how does He dispense this power from on high, how do we on earth get in contact with this power, so we can “enter into Jesus”, as the Pope Benedict says? We do this through His Mystical Body the Catholic Church, in and through all Her Sacraments which literally bring us the healing and consoling, life giving and saving power of Jesus; but we do so most especially in and through the Holy Eucharist, which brings to us Jesus who is the Way to the Father.
And since Jesus, is at the Right Hand of the Father, the presence of Jesus with the Father and the presence of Jesus at the Mass is the same exact presence. Where Jesus is in the Holy Eucharist, there heaven is as well. You may not have thought about this, but when we are present before the Holy Eucharist, we are present as well at the Right Hand of the Father. This points to a profound truth of the Ascension. Because of the Ascension we can already begin to possess that in which we hope for. In other words, we can already begin to experience the joy of heaven while still on earth, but only to the extent we go to Jesus and enter into Him.
It is at Holy Mass then that we can truly go to Jesus and enter into Him. We enter into Him to the extent we make an interior act of our will in which we try to trustingly give Him our whole Heart in order to fruitfully receive His Sacred Heart in Holy Communion, so that our heart and His can become as one. And so, it is at the Holy Mass that our humanity can already begin to follow Jesus’ Humanity ascended into heaven in order to begin to already possess here and now that in which we hope for—-Jesus, who is our Hope because He is our Heaven, truly in our midst.
To sum up: Yes, Jesus, has ascended to the right hand of the Father in heaven. But as we know, the Holy Eucharist makes this same Jesus in His risen and glorified body present to us on earth as well. The ascension was merely the end of Jesus visible presence on earth, but it was not the end of his physical presence on earth. St Leo the Great put it, “(At the Ascension) our Redeemer’s visible presence has passed into the sacraments.”Every time we look at the Holy Eucharist and there through the eyes of faith see Jesus at the right hand of the Father, our love is elevated and perfected, our position in heaven and so our closeness and our unity to the Holy Trinity deepened, and so, our hope increased. And so, If we are to have hope, and bring Hope to the world, we need to frequently go to the temple with joy and there, like the disciples, we need to, through the humanity of Jesus, be constantly praising and adoring God truly present there.
To help us, let us turn to Our Lady, Mother of Perpetual Help.
Holy Mary mother of our Faith, Mother of our Hope, Mother of our Love. Intercede to your beloved Spouse, the Holy Spirit for us in order He may help us to more fully believe that Jesus is truly present in the Holy Eucharist in order to adore Him there as the living and true almighty God still with us, placing all of our hope and trust in Him, so that we can love Him by offering our lowly heart (and everything we have) totally to His Sacred Heart. Obtain for us the grace and assist us in living out this self-offering of love by living out more perfectly in our daily lives our beautiful Catholic faith, all so that we may more and more possess Jesus. In this we will be able to share Him with the world, so that it too may have Hope, have Jesus. Then at the end our lives, the veil which prevents us from seeing His glorified face in the Holy Eucharist and at Mass will be lifted, and along with You and and all of the angles and saints we all shall see the Risen and Ascended Lord in all of His glory, His sacred Divinity shining through His Sacred Humanity—we shall see the Face of God, for we shall see Him as He is, thus possessing and being possessed by Him—which is Heaven. For this alone do we hope! Amen.