The Ascension of the Lord Jesus

The Ascension of the Lord Jesus

The Ascension of the Lord Jesus is a Solemnity because for Jesus, as Head of the Body, it marks the crowning of his complete triumph over all our enemies, death included, and his full glorification by the Father.

As far as we, members of the Body are concerned, this Solemnity comprises all that the Risen Lord said and did after his Resurrection to prepare all his disciples, across the millennia, to abide in him, to relate to him and to hope in him until their full glorification in heaven by the Father. 

From the evening of Easter Sunday and for a period of forty days, i.e. for enough time, the Risen Lord Jesus provided for his fledging Community repeated evidence that he had indeed risen, thus, taken away from them the horror of death and replaced it with firm hope of immortality. He had also given them his peace. Peace as assurance that the Lord is keeping all his promises and, thus, that his disciples can look forward to the future with confidence and serenity. He had breathed on them the Holy Spirit, thus empowering them to deal successfully with evil and sin until the full and complete triumph of love. He had also equipped them with heavenly light to open their minds and hearts to the correct and reliable interpretation of the Scriptures and to discover new ways of feeling his presence among them, starting with the Eucharist, the breaking of Bread.

So, if we want to put in a nutshell the work of the Risen Lord during those forty days, we can say that he “weaned” them, and all future generations of believers, from the perceived need of his physical presence and the sound of his voice, to find him present in other ways equally reassuring and equally real.

Fast forward to today and to our generation of believers. It seems quite clear that we have overlooked the tremendous importance of this statement: while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through accompanying signs. (Mark 16:20)

An important tenet of the Church states that Divine Revelation of the Word ended with the death of the last Apostle, traditionally believed to have been St. John the evangelist. Let us try to picture how it is possible that Jesus was fully glorified at the right hand of the Father in heaven while he was working as Risen Lord with his Apostles and early Christians confirming their apostolic work with accompanying miracles. 

Do we realize that we might have precious few words of what Jesus uttered while he was physically present on this earth? But we have the words of the Risen Lord! The first words recorded as words of the Risen Lord are those written by St. Paul in his letters up to his death not later than 64 AD. (the word “Gospel” is used 65 times by St. Paul and 16 times in the rest of the New Testament.) Then, we have those recorded as spoken by the Risen Lord through other disciples in the Community of Mark, in the early 70s. Then, we have those to the Community of Luke and Matthew in the 80s, all the way to those in the gospel of John several generations after the Ascension. That explains why the Gospel of John has two endings, is so strikingly different in style and content from the other three and from the Gospel that the Risen Lord revealed directly to St. Paul. The letters to the Hebrews, 1, 2, 3 John, 1and 2 Peter, James and Jude were written any time between the latter part of the 1st century to the 1st quarter of the 2nd century, all showing the Lord’s work in their writings.

Once we wrap our head around the work of the Risen Lord present in the Early Church, we should put forth our best effort to make the Solemnity of the Ascension relevant to our life on earth in view of our eternal destiny of glory. Nowadays, the Risen Lord’s presences are the same as they were after his Ascension, 2000 years ago. It is up to us, in the power, comfort and light of the Holy Spirit to be constantly aware that the Risen Lord is using his new presences to create a personal relationship with every single person ever living on the earth. 

For a clearer understanding of the statement: and confirmed the Word through accompanying signs, we should read: the Risen Lord confirmed himself as the Father’s Word through accompanying miracles of all sizes.

Thus, it is spiritually beneficial to mention how the Risen Lord is present: in our Community of faith assembled for worship, in the priest or bishop who presides at the Eucharist, in the Word of God proclaimed, in the poor and needy and, especially, in the Eucharistic Elements of bread and wine.

All these presences are preparing us for our “Ascension,” for our glorification.

The Risen Lord is present whenever we assemble: For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20)

The presiding priest or bishop acts in persona Christi: Whoever listens to you listens to me. Whoever rejects you rejects me. And whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)

In his words of life: “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever keeps my word will never see death. (John 8:51)

The Eucharist is the Bread of life and immortality: “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world. (John 6:51)

And caring for the poor and the least of our brothers and sisters is the best way to enter the Kingdom of life: And the king will say to them in reply‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ (Matthew 25:40)

As we avail ourselves of these wonderful presences, occasionally, we should look back and see how, in our life, the Risen Lord has strewn little, and not so little, miracles designed to fill us with resolve, lively energy and unwavering hope to overcome all obstacles and endure all trials on the way to our eternal glorification.

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Written by
Fr Dino Vanin