My brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Today we celebrate the last of the mysteries of the life of Christ on earth. One of the truths of our faith, as we pray every Sunday in our profession of faith — that Jesus “ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.”
The Ascension means, as we all know, that God the Father has lifted Jesus up. First he was lifted on the Cross on Good Friday. And today, as we just heard in the first reading, he was lifted up and a cloud took him from their sight!2
This is the great mystery. God the Father has taken Jesus — up into heaven!
We know that, we believe that. But the question for us today is: what does it mean to live that in our lives?
St. Paul tells us in the second reading that we heard today — that God has raised Jesus and seated him at his right hand in the heavens.
Jesus has gone ahead of us — to open up the gates of heaven for us! Because he has risen to heaven, because of that, we know that we can follow him there.
So the Ascension means that we can live now every day with the hope of going to heaven. The living hope that where Jesus has gone, we can follow — into the highest heavens!
The Ascension means then that we if follow Jesus — with faith, hope and love, trying to live as he did here on Earth — then we can be sure that we are following the path to Heaven.
As the first reflection that we have to make today, understanding that the goal of our life is going to Heaven, where there is going to be, as we all know, total happiness. Just being in the presence of God forever — all beauty, all perfection forever.
But then following Jesus means, being his witnesses.
In our first reading today and in our Gospel passage, we hear Jesus’ last earthly words. They are very important. Because he’s talking to the Apostles, but he is also talking to each one of us. He said to them, as we just heard:
You will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them … [and] teaching them …
all that I have commanded.
These words, my dear brothers and sisters, are words of “commissioning,” words that give us a mission.
And his Ascension is the start of our mission — the mission that Jesus gave to his Church!
So, our Lord’s words today call us to be missionaries — not in a foreign country, missionaries where we are — in that little part of the world that we live in. In our homes, in the places where we work, our schools and neighborhoods.
Jesus is calling us to sanctify our reality and our relationships, so that everything reflects a little more the glory of God and his plans for the human family.
So our mission is to make the love of God real in our world. We need to be concerned every day to help our loved ones and the people we meet to go to heaven.
That’s what his Ascension means. His Ascension gives us a mission. A beautiful mission. A challenging mission. But at the same time, a wonderful mission — to live in our daily lives where we are imitators, as followers of Jesus Christ, and to help people to discover that they are also called to go to Heaven.
But this feast also reminds us that Jesus has not left us alone here on earth, as he said to his disciples: And behold, I am with you always until the end of the age. He has gone to heaven, but at the same time, he is near to us. Close to us. We walk with him, we go with Jesus.
We can talk to him in prayer. He comes to us in this Eucharist that we are about to celebrate. He comes to feed us. He comes to give himself to us, in his Body and Blood. So it’s that just awesome? Jesus was walking with us and has proceeded us in going to Heaven, calling us always to be with him always, starting now, and setting the goal of life to go to Heaven, and sharing that with the people around us.
So this week, my brothers and sisters, let us try to live the Ascension. Let us continue to live in true friendship with Jesus. Let’s try to really live the mission that he gives us — to be his witnesses, to share his teaching with others in our daily work.
Jesus wants to lift everything up to God! He wants to draw all people to heaven. And he wants to do these things —through his Church, through the witness of our lives.3 Let’s never forget that, because he really gives meaning to everything that we do, the little things of everyday life, participating in the mission of Christ. Sharing with people the goal of going to heaven, or absolute eternal happiness.
And finally this week, we have the opportunity of increasing our devotion to the Holy Spirit as we prepare ourselves for the solemnity of Pentecost a week from today. It is a good time, this week, as we reflect on what it means to live the essential. To also reflect on the action of the Holy Spirit, to sanctify the one who is helping us to achieve the goal of our life. A beautiful prayer:
Come Holy Spirit
Fill the hearts of your faithful
And kindle in them
The fire of your love
Send forth your Spirit
And they shall be created
And you shall renew the face of the Earth
The fire of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Being part of the mission of Christ, again, awesome.
So we turn to our Blessed Mother Mary, the Queen of Heaven, asking her to help us. To always have our eyes looking at heaven and our hearts open to our brothers and sisters on earth.
1. Readings (Feast of the Ascension, Year A): Acts 1:1-11; Ps. 47:2-3, 6-9; Eph. 1:17-23; Matt. 28:16-20.
2. Catechism, 662.
3. John 12:32.