Are you ready to be lifted up with Christ and ascend to the heights of heaven? What is the meaning of the Ascension for us today?
Pope Benedict XVI emeritus once wrote, “The meaning of Christ’s Ascension, expresses our belief that in Christ the humanity that we all share has entered into the inner life of God in a new and previously unheard of way. It means that man has found an everlasting place in God.”
It would be a mistake to interpret the Ascension as “the temporary absence of Christ from the world” … Rather, “we go to heaven to the extent that we go to Jesus Christ and enter into Him.”
Heaven is a PERSON… “Jesus Himself is what we call ‘heaven”!
The Ascension is a promise not a departure … a promise that we are destined, to dwell with and in …God. As Pope Benedict alludes to in my opening reflection on the meaning of the Ascension, we ‘go to heaven’ whenever we turn to the divine presence of the Holy Trinity within us.
How does this relate to the Ascension story? The Apostles were instructed to wait for the Holy Spirit, whom we have received in baptism confirmation and Eucharist.
Christ has Ascended to heaven … we should not grieve … He has not left us … the only thing better than Christ staying “with” us… is for Him to return to be “in” us! … How does He do this?
Jesus instructed the Apostles immediately before he Ascended to heaven, saying: “you will receive power when Holy Spirit comes upon you”. The angels, described as “two men dressed in white garments stood beside them” and told the Apostles – Jesus “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”.
Jesus certainly will return as judge at Parousia – the end of time… visibly on the “clouds of heaven”… but Jesus also returned just days later at Pentecost, in the coming of the Holy Spirit, which is the very love of the Father and the Son. The Holy Trinity is acting whenever one Person acts. The sending of the Holy Spirit is the sending of the Trinity into our hearts and this unlocks the secret to our ascension with and in Christ!
Our Gospel curiously says at the moment of the Ascension that, the Apostles “worshiped but they doubted” – it is amazing this would be recorded in Gospel at this important juncture and after all they had seen and experienced!!
Why did they doubt? – They had not yet received the confirming grace – that Jesus promises to send… the Holy Spirit! The meaning and significance of the Ascension was lost to them without the gift of Faith, which comes through grace and our becoming temples of the Holy Spirit.
Paul speaks of this today to the Ephesians of our being given “a Spirit of wisdom and revelation resulting in knowledge of Him…that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call… riches of glory in his inheritance.”
As Christians, we can hope because we possess the life of God within us… if we only tap into Him within… creating heaven in our souls must be cultivated in prayer service and sacrament! Benedict notes in Spe Salvi that our hope to attain heaven – union with God … is something we already possess now through grace! The Father Son and Spirit dwelling with in us.
Jesus Ascends, but as he promises… He is with us always. He ascended but never left… because His same love returned and remains in us through the Holy Spirit: grace, eucharist, forgiveness.
We ascend to heaven when we descend in humility like Jesus and Mary … to do the will of the Father and recognize heaven… that is, God the Trinity, is within us. Before Christ was lifted up to heaven in His glorious ascension, he had to be lifted up in the humiliation and suffering of the cross!
But for us to experience heaven, that is, God in our souls… and not just be an abstract concept…. we must MAKE TIME for God in our lives! In daily prayer, exhortation and witness in our families, how we make decisions, how we deal with trials and sufferings, how we make use of our financial resources, how we use the talents and gifts given us. Do we pray together as a family? Is God central to your life in concrete ways that can be observed daily?
Where the heart is there also is your treasure. We experience the joy and exaltation of the ascension in our souls only if we commit to daily conversion and making acts of faith, invoking the Holy Spirit to come to our aid, for we do not know how to pray as we ought – inexpressible groanings.. we long to ascend to Christ.
Our ascension to heaven has already begun and continues now. Are we moving toward heaven or hovering at a standstill, in a lukewarm faith? Are we clinging to earthly cares and allowing them to dominate your thinking, your time, your heart – or are we ascending, rising above the earth with Christ, being in but not of the world, detaching from worldly things that replace God in our lives? Have you said “yes” to God daily not in words but action? Obedience to God’s will and commandments is the foundation of all else we do or else we build on sand.
No matter what your life is like right now, success, failure, family stress, personal addiction to sin, employment frustrations, anxiety and fear about the future – the answer is to ascend to Christ who is within you, the heaven of your immortal soul! If you can say you are striving to be holy, a saint, which is to say doing and accepting all for God and imitating Christ’s life of prayer, service and sacrificial love …then you are indeed successful in your life (not as the world judges success) and you have accomplished everything.
Our Lord desires faithfulness, not success. For, in Christ, faithfulness itself is success in God’s eyes. Our confidence is not in self but in God! Let us turn to Jesus, who has given us hope through His Ascension… and the Holy Spirit to lift us up with Him. And you will experience the glory of the ascension here and now – which is none other than the rapturing merciful love of the Holy Trinity in the heaven of your soul. Peace+ DDG ;- ) \\