Fri, April 30, 20215 mins readminicatNina S. Heereman, SSD

Solemnity of the Ascension

What do we celebrate on the Solemnity of the Ascension?

Ⓒ Photo by Blake Cheek on Unsplash

What do we celebrate on the Solemnity of the Ascension? In the first reading, we hear that Jesus appeared to the disciples for 40 days and told them about the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God and the Solemnity of the Ascension have a lot to do with each other: However, we must beware of two naive ideas:

  1. The First Misunderstanding: People might think that Heaven, which we hope to reach at the end of our lives, is simply the paradise of Eden found again. According to Scripture: Adam and Eve were forced out of this garden flowing with milk and honey, and when we die, we’ll go back there and be filled with rich food – complete nonsense! The image of paradise in the Old Testament is a symbol of the first creation, which was perfect: without death, without war, without suffering, etc. This creation was destroyed by man's sin. Since then, we suffer from war and especially from death. But in Jesus, God became man. This in itself is incredible. He has come into this world which is destroyed as if there was an earthquake or tsunami. He enters into time and submits himself to the sufferings of the old creation. With his death, He takes the old creation with him into death and rises again. Through the resurrection of Christ, an absolute new creation occurs, something radically new. His resurrected body is the beginning of the Kingdom of Heaven.

  2. The Second Misunderstanding: When Jesus goes up to the Father today, it is not as if He went to the highest place in the universe like an astronaut. Yuri Gagarin (Soviet cosmonaut and the first man in space) is quite right: God is not to be found there. Jesus rather enters in his humanity into a completely different reality. For the first time a human being will enter into the innermost of the Trinity, which is pure spirit. Jesus, who is both God and man, He, the Logos, the Son of the Father, became human. This body is resurrected and is a new creation. With his humanity, the Son of God now goes back to where He came from: Into the heart of the relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Thus, heaven opens up to us simply because we are joined to the Body of Christ through baptism. And that is why the Letter to the Colossians says: “giving thanks to the Father, who has made you fit to share in the inheritance of the holy ones in light. He delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross [through him], whether those on earth or those in heaven” (Col 1,12-14,19-20) This means that we already live in the Father because Christ dwells in us. Although we ourselves still live on earth, we are also already with the Father through our union with Christ. We truly experience this when we really live our faith and practice it. Through this, we have this experience that in our heart, especially when we receive communion, we are already in the Father. That is why the Solemnity of the Ascension is an incredible reason for joy, because our life is already “hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3,3). At the same time, we are waiting for Christ to come again and He will spread the Kingdom of God everywhere. What is this Kingdom of God? “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of food and drink, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the holy Spirit” (Rom 14,17). The life in the Church is the Kingdom of God, now already existing invisibly, in which Christ is enthroned at the right hand of the Father, and which is spreading through our witness. That is why we are to pray every day: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev 22,20). We ask this every day at Holy Mass when we say: “We proclaim your Death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection until you come again.” We pray for the return of Christ. That is why the angel says: “Men of Galilee, why are you standing there looking at the sky? 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” (Acts 1,11). Jesus will return as He left, on the clouds of heaven. Anyone who claims to be the Messiah, but does not come on the clouds of heaven, is not! So let us do our duty: let us go out into the world, proclaiming Christ and pray, "Come, Lord Jesus," so that He may return soon. But for the nine days following the Ascension, let us first of all unite intensely in prayer and pray for the Holy Spirit Jesus has promised us. ∎