the Ascension of the Lord
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord into Heaven. With this celebration, the Easter Season steps towards the end on the Solemnity of Pentecost. According to the Holy Gospels, the Lord Jesus, after his resurrection, appeared several times to the Apostles gathered with the Holy Virgin and the other disciples.
The first reading of the Acts of the Apostles already highlights the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the nascent Church: “Do not withdraw from Jerusalem, but wait for the fulfillment of the promise of the Father”… “you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit”.
The solemnity that we celebrate today marks the end of the mission of the Lord Jesus amidst his disciples. At this time, the community of believers was already solidified in its faith in the Risen One and the Church was taking her first steps. The physical presence of the Lord was no longer necessary. The Lord Jesus returns to the glory of heaven, to the bosom of the Most Holy Trinity.
The Church teaches that “the last apparition of Jesus ends with the irreversible entrance of his humanity into the divine glory symbolized by the cloud and heaven”. By entering heaven, therefore, the Lord Jesus carries with him our humanity, assumed by him in the Incarnation. With this, through Jesus Christ, who died, rose from the dead, and who entered first into the glory of the Father, the destiny of every human being is formed.
As Jesus ascended into heaven, He left us his Church. The mission of the Church is to witness to Jesus Christ, the Dead and Risen One. For the community of believers, the faith in the risen Christ, transmitted by the Apostles, and the certainty of the Lord’s presence are empowering elements for the Christian life. Even if not physically present, the Lord Jesus is present in the Christian community and becomes visible through the witness of faith, the living out of his teachings and through the celebration of the Eucharist, the memorial of the Lord’s sacrifice. Through his presence in the Church, the Lord encourages Christians to live the normality of life with that divine life of His own.
There is no true Church of Christ where his presence is not fully felt and lived. The Church of Christ, made up of those who received Baptism and embraced the faith, has the essential vocation to be with Christ in the glory of the Father, as Christ Himself is, and to witness to the world that Jesus Christ is alive in his Church. However, on the way to the realization of our vocation, we have a mission to accomplish: “But you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit who will descend upon you to be my witnesses…”. According to the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus Himself promised us His strength and help so that we can face the challenges of life.
We must always consider the goodness and immense charity of the Lord towards his Church. He certainly knew that the faithful would need even greater help to follow the path of witness to the faith. Therefore, in this Liturgy, we already glimpse the Solemnity of next Sunday, the Solemnity of Pentecost, where we will celebrate the outpouring of the Spirit on the Church of Christ.
The Lord Jesus ascended into heaven but left us a promise and a mission: “You will be witnesses of all this. I will send Him over you, the One whom my Father has promised. For this reason, remain in the city until you are clothed with the power from on high.” As we celebrate the Lord’s Ascension, we must renew our Christian commitment to witness to Jesus’ victory over sin and death. Through the mystery of His life, Jesus taught us that the true meaning of our existence lies in placing our lives at the disposition of God, who created us out of love and calls us to share in His mystery.
Like St. Paul, the liturgy invites us to pray on this day: God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom the glory belongs, give us a spirit of wisdom. Open our hearts to your light, so that we may know what hope your call gives us and so that we may experience the immense power that the Lord Jesus has exercised on our behalf through his Spirit.
And it came to pass, whilst he blessed them, he departed from them, and was carried up to heaven. And they adoring went back into Jerusalem with great joy. And they were always in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. Lc 24, 51-53