Solemnity of the Ascension of the Lord
Today at Mass millions upon millions of Catholics and other Christians will profess the Creed in which we publicly declare our belief that Jesus “…ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.” How often do we simply recite the Creed without ever thinking about the incredible things to which we are testifying? This is one of those things.
After Jesus rose from the dead He remained with the faithful for forty days, teaching them and revealing mysteries we can only imagine, empowering them for the challenges that lay ahead. Then, at the end of this time, He returned to where He had come from: Heaven. Unlike His mother at a later date, He was not “taken” into Heaven, but rather He ascended by His own power, as you or I would ascend a ladder, or a flight of stairs. For Him He was simply walking home just as easily as when we are up in a tree we can fall to earth, which is our home (for now, praise God). Ascending into Heaven was for Jesus a simple matter of letting go of the Earth, one could say, not in the sense of abandoning her but more in the sense of freeing her from “clinging” to Him. But, as always, there’s more to it.
All of us share a human nature with Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God. That same Incarnate God is a member of the Trinity: a human being, like us in every way but sin, dwells in Heaven and is God. This means there is a place in Heaven for us all, if we but follow the Way Christ laid out for us. Let the wonder of it strike you in the heart: brothers and sisters, God’s only child is a human being! When He looks upon His Son in Heaven, He sees all of us; when He looks upon any of us, even if the image is faint and obscured by our sins, He sees His Son. By ascending into Heaven Jesus has, in a way, hung mankind’s picture on the wall of God’s throne room where God can turn and adore a portrait of His beloved children, their potential beauty and goodness captured perfectly in the reality of His Son.
Now when the Father beholds His human Son and loves His entirety—including His humanity—that love rushes over all mankind like a tidal wave of grace, drowning us in a merciful love as we have never before known. Jesus’ ascension did not so much deprive us of God’s loving presence as it did pierce the Heart of Heaven like a dart fired from Cupid’s arrow, baptizing all mankind in a flood of love that beckons us closer to its heavenly Source.