“and I –once I am lifted up from the earth – will draw all men to myself (Jn 12:32).”
The focal point of today’s celebration is not the departure of Jesus’ physical presence on earth but rather the beginning of an indwelling presence that is much more real than physicality. The Ascension of Jesus is the unveiling of the full glory of His Risen Body, the unveiling of the lifted humanity imbued with divinity. Henceforward Jesus’ ascension, He has been seated at the right hand of God where He exercises a permanent priesthood by interceding to God for those who draw near to God through Him (Cf CCC 662). It also signifies the inauguration of His messianic kingdom, the fulfillment of Daniel’s vision for the Son of Man: “to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom; that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom, one that shall have not be destroyed.”
So what do these mean for us? The Ascension is essentially for us. Ascension is not the undoing of the Incarnation but rather its intended goal. The Incarnation is not just a temporary visit but rather an expedition to redeem our lowly and fallen humanity and Christ brought humanity home to heaven by the Ascension. Jesus’ redemptive act not only changed us forever but also changed God forever. The humanity of Jesus, His body and soul, is exalted to God forever. The Second Person of the Trinity, God Himself, though divine is also human, though spiritual is also bodily, like us!
And as the First Reading and Gospel exhort us, we are witnesses to these things. We are called to testify and give evidence to these things by our word and example. First and foremost, we need to reexamine our view of the dignity and value of humanity because the Ascension affirms that humanity is destined to reign with Christ, to reign with God. Any indignity therefore committed against the humanity of each individual is a sacrilege to the humanity of Jesus who is also God. Humanity is not just an element of any economic and political institution but rather of God Himself. Secondly, humanity must never tire or despair of reaching out to God because Jesus Christ intercedes for us to God, because God knows what it is to be human. He knows our frailty, our weakness, our disordered passions, and He understands. So we must never give up since Jesus Christ never gives up interceding for us and obtains for us whatever grace necessary so that one day we may be with Him in the bosom of the Eternal Father. Finally, since our humanity was incorporated into the Godhead, we are also called to be bridges to the divinity. We are all priests capable of interceding to God through our High Priest Jesus Christ everyone around us. We are to be His witnesses to the ends of the world. Thus, we are now again invited to reflect on how our individual humanity becomes an access to the divine for all those who are around us. We are called to lift up Jesus Christ in our own ways so that He can draw all men to Himself. Moreover, if God Himself has lifted Him up, so we are also called to lift Him up. Christ’s rule at the right hand of God would be incomplete unless He rules at the right hand of our lives. Ascension also reminds us not only the importance of humanity but also the primary importance of Jesus Christ over all humanity. Jesus Christ is the Lord of All Nations, the King of All Humanity, the one to whom our final allegiance must be due.
Lastly, the Ascension gives way to the presence of God that is more intimate than physical presence. By Ascension, the presence of Jesus is made available not only to the first century disciples but for all His believers throughout the ages. Because He ascended and reigned at the right hand of God, He is now present in each one of us in a most intimate way by His Spirit. And as we prepare for Pentecost, let us pray for the renewal of the outpouring of this Spirit over us.
1st Reading: Acts 1:1-11
Ps 47:2-3.6-7.8-9. (6)
2nd Reading: Heb 9:24-28; 10:19-23
Gospel: Lk 24:46-53